DURBAN, South Africa, October 7, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The world is suffering a global eye care crisis according to world leaders in vision health and development who attended the World Congress on Refractive Error in Durban, South Africa.

A staggering 670 million are avoidably blind or vision impaired because they don't have simple vision correction (spectacles) that could be provided at a relatively low cost, reports leading advocate, Professor Brien Holden, CEO of the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE).

The cost of not providing eye care services to those in need is well in excess of approximately $US269 billion per annum, just in lost productivity. The sad part is, the numbers affected by uncorrected vision problems will only rise if we don't recognise it and take action, he told the congress.

The congress attracted public health professionals, researchers, educators, industry and government to address the leading cause of avoidable blindness - uncorrected refractive error.

The Durban Commitment 2010 - Vision Health and Development; Enhancing our Commitment to the Durban Declaration on Refractive Error, a statement developed and ratified at the congress, advocated for renewed commitment to delivery of eye care to combat the rising numbers of eye conditions like myopia (short-sightedness) and hyperopia (long-sightedness) and other refractive errors.

The document, signed by representatives of the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (Africa), International Council of Ophthalmology, World Council of Optometry and ICEE, affirms universal access to quality services and to supporting primary health care reforms. It recognises the importance of reducing inequities caused by vision loss and draws particular reference to the plight of children, confirming the intention to further integrate eye care with schools and child health programmes. It further emphasises the need for gender specific strategies because two-thirds in need of vision correction in the world today are women.

The commitment heightened concerns about inadequate levels of services, demanding urgent action to scale-up plans. Professor Kovin Naidoo, Congress Chair, said the document represents a paradigm shift locating eye care firmly in the broader development agenda and commits to developing partnerships that address poverty and eye health as a common agenda.

The meeting called on governments, institutions, non-government development organisations and the public to work together to urgently address the issue.

Download the COMMITMENT and watch the signing -

Interviews: Stephanie O'Connell +61-439-600-312

SOURCE: International Centre For Eyecare Education

CONTACT: Stephanie OConnell, +61-439-600-312,