Calls for increased targets to address the problem in the next eight years
Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has called for reducing visual impairment and blindness by 50 per cent each by 2020 as against the targets of 14 per cent and 20 per cent respectively set in the WHO Zero Draft.
Delivering the key note address at the opening ceremony of the 9th General Assembly of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) here on Monday, he referred to the targets mentioned in the WHO report and said, “I am of the opinion that this is a very small target.”
He said that with the development of technology, improvement in infrastructure, advocacy missions by social and government organisations, “we should aim at reducing visual impairment by 50 per cent within the next eight years by the year 2020”. He said that countries should take up population surveys once in two years to understand the present state of visual impairment and work for reducing the gap.
For improving the availability of eye surgeons, the former President suggested to the IAPB to bring forward a proposal for having surgical simulator for eye in every medical college.
This would facilitate training of even general practitioners to get trained in cataract surgery and they could be authorised to carry out such surgeries.
Awards given away
Dr. Kalam later presented ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ to Christian C. Garms, president, IAPB Germany, ‘Global Achievement Award’ to Dr. G.N. Rao, Chairman, L.V. Prasad Eye Institute and ‘Global Partnership Award’ to Merck & Co. Inc. USA.
Earlier, addressing a press conference, Peter Ackland, CEO, IAPB, said around 285 million people were visually impaired worldwide and 80 per cent of them were unnecessarily affected .
He said it was estimated that the various health and social costs on account of the visual impairment were to the tune of $ 1 trillion annually.
The Hyderabad Declaration to be adopted on the concluding day on September 20 would call for an action plan to eliminate avoidable cases of visual-impairment .
President IAPB, Bob McMullan, urged the governments in various countries to give priority to eye health and bring it on to their national agendas.
Dr. G. N. Rao said cataract and uncorrected refractive errors were the major problems in India. He said that 65-70 per cent of the problem could be combated if these two were addressed.