A paediatric patient receives an eye examination. With one hand over her eye she looks at someone else's hand in front of her


New figures suggest the number of people who are blind globally could triple by 2050.

A new paper by the Vision Loss Expert Group has been published in the Lancet, updating our knowledge on the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment. It estimates that in 2015, 36 million people globally were blind and 217 million were visually impaired. Thanks to efforts from across the eye health sector, we can see a decrease in the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment across the world’s population.

However, most visual impairment occurs in older age – due to conditions such as cataract, the world’s leading cause of blindness. The report reveals that unless we improve access to eye health services, an aging and growing global population means that we could see the number of people who are blind triple to 115 million by 2050.

Dr. Danny Haddad

Chief of Programs at Orbis

The new data is encour­ag­ing as it shows that our efforts to reduce avoid­able blind­ness in affect­ed coun­tries are work­ing. How­ev­er, it’s vital we con­tin­ue this work in the face of a grow­ing and age­ing pop­u­la­tion and increas­ing chron­ic dis­eases like dia­betes. We believe the best way to tack­le this prob­lem is to work in part­ner­ship to help strength­en coun­tries’ health­care systems.

The research highlights the importance of investing in preventing and treating avoidable visual impairment, through cost-effective means such as cataract surgery or spectacles. At Orbis, we improve access to quality eye health services: we train and equip doctors, nurses and eye health teams, and alongside our local partners we work to ensure the future of strong eye health systems.

There are still huge inequities across the globe, with 89% of the world’s visually impaired living in low or middle income countries, particularly in Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa. Orbis will continue to deliver quality eye care where people need it most, and advocate to make fighting blindness a priority. 

Key Findings:

  • 36 million people are blind  
  • 217 million people have severe or moderate visual impairment (distance)   
  • 253 million people are visually impaired (in 2015)   
  • 1.1 billion people struggle with near-vision impairment   
  • The prevalence of visual impairment has dropped from 4.58% in 1990 to 3.38% in 2015  
  • 89% of visually impaired people live in low and middle-income countries   
  • 55% of visually impaired people are women 
Lancet infographic
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