Seva Foundation recently released a report entitled, “The Social Cost of Blindness in India.” With a population of nearly 1.4 billion citizens, India is an enormous nation with a gigantic economy. The government has set the ambitious goal of growing the country’s GDP even further, to US$5 trillion, within the next decade. However, a number of ongoing problems threaten to derail this sweeping economic plan. One of these is the high cost of blindness and visual impairment.
India is home to an estimated 34 million people living with blindness or moderate or severe visual impairment (MSVI). Seva’s report found that this costs India a total of US$54.4 billion at purchasing power parity exchange rates, or 0.6% of GDP, each year. That cost is only likely to grow as India’s population ages and becomes wealthier.
There are many reasons why blindness is so costly. People who live with blindness or visual impairment are more likely to lose their jobs, while those who remain employed may lose productivity. Sight-impaired children often face difficulties keeping up with their peers, which may lead to lower earnings when they reach adulthood. Caregivers frequently have to take time off of work to care for their visually impaired relatives or loved ones.
Thankfully, the vast majority of vision loss cases are treatable or preventable – and usually inexpensive. For more than 42 years, Seva has supported partners across India to provide critical eye care to communities in need. By investing in eye care and blindness prevention as public health priorities, India can spare itself and its people this financial burden in the years and decades to come.
“Seva is committed to ending avoidable blindness in our lifetime. This paper is the beginning of us demonstrating that eye health is a fantastic investment in the grand scheme of global health and development. Read on to see more clearly why Seva has a commitment to end avoidable blindness in our lifetime and the cost to us all if we don’t.” – Kate Moynihan, Executive Director, Seva Foundation