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Bull World Health Organ. 2001; 79(3): 227–232.
Published online Jul 7, 2003.
PMCID: PMC2566382

Childhood blindness in the context of VISION 2020--the right to sight.


The major causes of blindness in children vary widely from region to region, being largely determined by socioeconomic development, and the availability of primary health care and eye care services. In high-income countries, lesions of the optic nerve and higher visual pathways predominate as the cause of blindness, while corneal scarring from measles, vitamin A deficiency, the use of harmful traditional eye remedies, and ophthalmia neonatorum are the major causes in low-income countries. Retinopathy of prematurity is an important cause in middle-income countries. Other significant causes in all countries are cataract, congenital abnormalities, and hereditary retinal dystrophies. It is estimated that, in almost half of the children who are blind today, the underlying cause could have been prevented, or the eye condition treated to preserve vision or restore sight. The control of blindness in children is a priority within the World Health Organization's VISION 2020 programme. Strategies need to be region specific, based on activities to prevent blindness in the community--through measles immunization, health education, and control of vitamin A deficiency--and the provision of tertiary-level eye care facilities for conditions that require specialist management.

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