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The epidemiology of childhood blindness and severe visual impairment in Indonesia

Abstract

Background The magnitude of blindness among children in Indonesia is unknown. In this study, we aimed to define the magnitude and aetiology of childhood blindness in two parts of Indonesia.

Method Children aged 0–15 years, identified through key informant method and from special schools and community-based rehabilitation programme in Sumba and Yogyakarta, were assessed following WHO protocol and definitions for ophthalmological assessment and classification of visual impairment and blindness among children.

Results Out of 195 children assessed, 113 had blindness/severe visual impairment (BL/SVI), 48 had visual impairment (VI) and 34 had no VI. 43.4% children with BL/SVI were female.

The main anatomical site of BL/SVI was lens (n=35, 31.0%), followed by retina (n=13, 11.5%) and cornea (n=9, 8.0%). Among the known aetiologies, childhood factors predominated (n=14, 12.4%), followed by hereditary diseases (n=12, 10.6%) where parental consanguinity was found among 33.3% (n=4) of them. Overall, 77.8% (n=88) had avoidable causes of BL/SVI: 69.0% (n=78) treatable and 8.8% (n=10) preventable causes.

The estimated prevalence of BL/SVI was 0.25 (95% CI 0.19 to 0.32) and 0.23 (95% CI 0.18 to 0.29) per 1000 children in Sumba and Yogyakarta, respectively. The estimated prevalence of cataract was 0.07 per 1000 children (95% CI 0.04 to 0.12) in Sumba and 0.05 per 1000 children (95% CI 0.03 to 0.09) in Yogyakarta. Based on our conservative estimates, there are 17 241 children with BL/SVI in Indonesia; 4270 are blind due to cataract.

Conclusion The magnitude of childhood BL/SVI in Sumba and Yogyakarta is high. Our study suggests that a large proportion of childhood BL/SVI in Indonesia is avoidable.

  • vision
  • epidemiology
  • child health (paediatrics)
  • eye (globe)
  • public health
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