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For immediate release: 25 January

Eye health crisis must be tackled now, says NGO Sightsavers

International development charity Sightsavers will this week highlight the desperate need for eye health professionals in the developing world, at the World Health Organisation (WHO) conference in Bangkok (25 to 29 January 2011).

The 'Second Global Forum on Human Resources for Health (HRH)', aims to address the shortage of 4.3 million health workers worldwide1 however, according to Sightsavers, there is also an urgent need to fill an additional gap of ophthalmologists and other eye health professionals as part of a global effort on human resources for health.

Elaine Ireland, Policy Manager at Sightsavers will raise the issue at the event today. She says, "The severe shortage of trained eye care staff is one of the biggest challenges to preventing blindness in developing countries.

"Governments, NGOs and health providers must invest in training more health workers with skills in eye care and more ophthalmologists and specialists. Without investment, hundreds of thousands of people will continue to go needlessly blind."

Sightsavers works in more than 30 countries to prevent and treat blindness in the developing world. The NGO will present examples of their work at the event, which will be attended by policy makers from across the world.

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WHO World Health Report 2006

For further press information or an interview with a Sightsavers spokesperson, please contact Sarah Wilson or Emma Blundell in the Sightsavers media team on 01444 446723, [email protected] For media enquiries out of hours, please call 07775 928253.

Notes to Editors: About Sightsavers:

1. Sightsavers is a registered UK charity (Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110) that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people who are blind and visually impaired. www.sightsavers.org 2. There are 45 million blind people in the world; 75% of all blindness can be prevented or cured. 3. Every sixty seconds another child loses their sight; only 2% of children who are disabled in the developing world attend school 4. In the six decades since its foundation, Sightsavers has: - Treated over 206.8 million people for blinding and potentially blinding conditions - Carried out over 7.1 million operations to restore sight - Trained almost 0.5 million primary eye care workers - Carried out rehabilitation training to 91,000 people.

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