Women more likely to go blind
“Being a woman should not put one at greater risk of blindness. Yet two-thirds of blind people worldwide are women and girls, and in many places men have twice the access to eye care.” Dr. Danny Haddad, Director of ITI
(Atlanta, GA—October 8, 2009) Dr. Danny Haddad, Director of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) issued the following statement today as global attention is focused on blindness and vision impairment for World Sight Day 2009.
“The compelling theme for this year’s World Sight Day—Gender & Eye Health-equal access to care reflects the realities of women’s lives that we see everyday in our work on trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. An infectious eye disease, trachoma currently affects 41 million people who are the poorest of the poor in the underresourced countries and communities in Africa and Asia. But evidence shows that women are among those most affected by blinding trachoma. Not only are women, as mothers and care givers, more vulnerable to repeated infections from trachoma, they are also least likely to receive the simple surgical procedure that could save their sight and allow them to continue to lead productive lives.
“Being a woman should not put one at greater risk of blindness. Yet two-thirds of blind people worldwide are women and girls, and in many places men have twice the access to eye care. When it comes to trachoma, surveys show that women, because they spend more time caring for children, are exposed more frequently to Chlamydia trachomatis, the bacteria that causes trachoma. With children being the reservoir of trachoma infection, those who care for them are at greater risk of contracting the disease. As a result of repeated infections, women are more likely than men to develop trichaisis, the advanced stage of trachoma.
“A number of national trachoma control programs are making progress in preventing trachoma yet struggling to provide necessary sight-saving surgeries for trichiasis. For a variety of economic, cultural, and societal factors, men are more likely to have access and take advantage of these surgeries. An important resource to address this disparity in prevention and services is Women and Trachoma, Achieving Gender Equity in the Implementation of SAFE. Created by The Carter Center and the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology, with support from the Elfenworks Foundation, this essential manual examines the reasons for the lack of equity and shows the steps needed to create an equitable balance for women and men in the use of eye care services in developing countries. (Women and Trachoma is available in English and French at http://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/health/trachoma/women_trachoma.pdf)
“World Sight Day is a time to celebrate progress and confront challenges we face in preventing blindness. We have a realistic goal for global elimination of trachoma by 2020 —GET 2020—but we will only reach this goal if we work in partnership to address gender inequities in eye care.”
For general information on World Sight Day 2009, visit the World Sight Day page on the VISION 2020 website at http://www.v2020.org/page.asp?section=0001000100070013.
The International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) is a non-governmental organization working to prevent, treat and ultimately eliminate blinding trachoma. With programs in 18 countries in Africa and Asia, ITI is a major proponent and facilitator of the SAFE strategy to prevent and eliminate trachoma through Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement. ITI was created through a public-private partnership of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and Pfizer Inc, and is now a program of the Task Force for Global Health. ITI collaborates with international agencies, governmental, and non-governmental organizations to build targeted support—including Zithromax® donated by Pfizer—for expanded implementation of the SAFE strategy, operational research and program evaluation, education and advocacy. http://www.trachoma.org
Sign up for our Email Newsletter