- There are 1.4 million blind children worldwide.
- Around 500,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, (approximately 1 per minute).
- Most of these children become blind before the age of five, the period when 75% of their learning takes place through sight.
Amazingly, over 50% of the world’s blind and visually impaired children are unnecessarily so. With the right people and the right training these figures can be dramatically reduced. v4c is at the forefront of this work.
We run teaching and training courses in lower income countries to build capacity and embed sustainable programmes. And we set up and support children’s eye care centres, including teaching and training their eye care staff.
This work is currently concerned with India (though we do some work in Pakistan as well) because India’s 320,000 blind and visually impaired children account for almost 20% of the entire world’s blind and visually impaired children – and India has 4-5 times as many blind and visually impaired children as countries in the developed world.
Given access to the right treatment, these dreadful numbers can be almost halved.
On an economic level, the effect of childhood blindness in India is far-reaching – the loss to India’s GNP each year due to preventable childhood blindness is estimated at £3.3 billion.
On a human level, the effect of childhood blindness in India is devastating – in some deprived areas; 50% of born-blind infants will be dead by their second birthday; 90% of those that survive do not go to school.
In addition to these, an estimated 19 million children are visually impaired, 12 million of them due to refractive errors – a condition that could be easily diagnosed and corrected if they had access to diagnosis, and to glasses.
Unsurprisingly, childhood blindness has been declared a priority by the World Health Organisation and Vision2020. But examining children needs special skills and their treatment requires specific training, knowledge and equipment… and there is a huge shortage of paediatric eye care clinicians in India.
Having carried out hospital-based training in India in 2012-13, vision4children has developed an additional comprehensive, sustainable programme of online teaching and learning which will be delivered to carefully-placed centres across India – the most effective way of tackling these shortages.
Our project will:
- increase the number and skills of properly-trained paediatric eye-care clinicians in India
- enable us to build collaborative learning communities around all areas of paediatric eye-care through the use of forums, databases and wikis
- deliver highly specialised training
- fully assess all students
Of course the real benefit is that more children will be able to be treated – and treated better – reducing the number of blind and visually impaired children in India.
There are plans for this model of training to be rolled out in other countries in the future.
The courses are delivered by paediatric clinicians who are members of the vision4children volunteer faculty. If you are a paediatric eye care clinician and interested in joining the faculty, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
To launch this project, vision4children has partnered with HV Desai Hospital in Pune and Shroff Charitable Eye Hospital in Delhi, India, where we are running a three year project providing training and support to their paediatric ophthalmology teams based on site and at their surrounding outreach centres.
To find out the impact this is having, click here for feedback from the hospitals on the work being done there by v4c.