The World Health Organization has recognized that curing blindness is essential to achieving sustainable development goals. Vision impairment reduces mobility, mental health and well-being, and increases risks of dementia, falls, accidents and the need for social care — ultimately leading to more deaths. This is associated with the loss of annual global productivity that in 2020 was estimated at more than US$410 billion.
Of the corneal blind, 98% live in lower- and middle-income countries and are much younger on average than patients affected by cataracts, the most common cause of visual impairment. Corneal disease is a common cause of visual impairment, and 53% of the world’s population lacks access to corneal transplantation. More than 12.7 million people are waiting for bilateral corneal transplants. These numbers underestimate the true need, as this does not include the number of potential candidates living in areas with poor access to eye care or the millions of who are blind in one eye. Corneal transplantation is four times more effective than cataract surgery in improving quality of life. About 80% percent of corneal disease blindness can be successfully cured through corneal transplantation.
Millions of people are unnecessarily blind in lower- and middle-income countries. Corneal transplantation is a cost-effective way to help them. Available solutions can be locally self-sustainable, cost-effective, equitable and accountable.