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Hidden among the 85 million people and the 7100 islands of the Philippines, are an estimated half a million people who are blind, and many more who are visually impaired to a lesser degree.

By far, the leading cause of blindness among adults in the Philippines is cataract, accounting for around 400,000 cases. The treatment for cataract is simple and effective but is not readily available or affordable for those living in the rural areas.

Perhaps up to one hundred children lose their sight every week in the Philippines. Almost half of these cases are either treatable or preventable. Poor nutrition, measles, and premature birth are among the leading causes of preventable blindness in children. Early detection and treatment are the keys to saving the sight of these children.

 


Executive Summary of the Second National Survey of Blindness, Philippines, 1995

The second national survey of blindness was conducted from April 1994 to June 1995. It covered 76 provinces and 17 municipalities in Metro Manila represented by a total of 155 barangays or villages. A total of 19,449 persons consisting of 46% males and 54% females were examined.

The survey showed that the prevalence of bilateral blindness in Filipinos is 0.70% meaning 478,968 out of 68.4 million Filipinos are blind by WHO definition of inability to count fingers at 3 meters. This represents only a decrease by 35% from the 642,000 estimated blind during the first national survey in 1987 when the prevalence rate was 1.07% in a population of 60 million. Cataract (77% of blind), glaucoma and uncorrected aphakia were the most common causes of blindness found during this second national survey.

Bilateral blindness is a serious problem in the country, but the other visual disability problems are no less important. Bilateral low vision, with a prevalence rate of 1.95%, affects more than 1.3 million Filipinos. This is mostly due to cataract. In less than 5 years, these people will likely become blind, further increasing the present 400,000 cataract backlog.

Monocular blindness affects 1.09% of the population (700,000 Filipinos). Cataract is the most common cause. In addition, eye diseases traceable to industrialization are significantly causing a lot of monocular blindness.

Within eight years from the first survey, the Prevention of Blindness Program of the Department of Health was launched, the biggest component of which is the cataract backlog eradication program. A Cataract Backlog Project (Oplan Sagip Mata) has been on-going for the past two years. The goal of a national prevalence rate of 0.5% or less by year 2000 seems attainable in spite of the huge cataract backlog if efforts towards its eradication are strengthened.

The following recommendations are being made: efficient and effective coordination of eye care services through a national prevention of blindness committee; a good referral network; empowerment of local governments to deal with the cataract backlog in their own areas; incorporation of eye care education in school curricula; intensive information campaign against blindness and on eye health; and a national registry of the blind as an evaluation tool.

 
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