Global Data and Statistics

Developing Countries

In sub-Saharan Africa, there are 2.4 ophthalmologists and fewer than one ENT surgeon per million people.

In Greater Boston, there are 130 Ophthalmologists and 65 ENT surgeons per million.

Blindness and Visual Impairment

  • 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision. 7.1 million of the world’s blind live in sub-Saharan Africa (1% of Africans are blind).
  • 19 million children are visually impaired. The rate of childhood blindness in developing countries is 1.2 per 1,000 (as compared to 0.3 per 1,000 in developed countries).
  • Up to 60% of children in developing countries die within one year of becoming blind. 51% of childhood blindness in developing countries is avoidable or treatable.
  • About 90% of the world's visually impaired live in developing countries.
  • Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of visual impairment; cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness in middle- and low-income countries.
  • 80% of all visual impairment can be avoided or cured.

Hearing Impairment

  • Of the 360 million people worldwide with disabling hearing loss, 89% of live in middle- to low-income countries.
  • 32 million children suffer from disabling hearing loss, the prevalence of which is greatest in South Asia, Asia Pacific, and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • People with hearing loss can benefit from devices such as hearing aids, assistive device, and cochlear implants. Current production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of global need. In developing countries, fewer than one out of 40 people who need a hearing aid have one.
  • Half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented. Most people living with hearing loss can benefit from early identification and intervention, and appropriate management.

Head & Neck Cancer

  • The majority of cancer patients live in the developing world, and, by 2030, 70% of all newly diagnosed cancers will occur there. Cancer fatality rates in low income countries are 75% (as compared to 45% in higher income countries).
  • A rise in alcohol and tobacco abuse in low-income countries is leading to greater incidences of head and neck cancers in regions where there is little to no infrastructure for treatment.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, head and neck manifestations of Burkitt's lymphoma and Kaposi's sarcoma related to HIV account for many of the diagnosed pediatric cancers. Although most of these cancers are surgically curable, pediatric cancer patients have a low survival rate (Uganda has only a 13% first year survival rate for pediatric patients).

World Health Organization. Global Data on Visual Impairment. WHO/NMH/PBD/12.01. Geneva: WHO, 2012. 

Kong L, Fry M, Al-Samarriae M, et al. An update on progress and the changing epidemiology of causes of childhood blindness worldwide. J AAPOS 2012; 16: 501-507. 

Lewallen S, Courtright P. Blindness in Africa: present situation and future needs. Br J Ophthalmol. 2001 Aug; 85(8): 897-903. 

World Health Organization. WHO global estimates on prevalence of hearing loss: mortality and burden of diseases and prevention of blindness and deafness. Geneva: WHO, 2012.

Fagan JJ, Developing world ent: a global responsibility. Jour of Laryn & Oto 2012; 126: 544-547.

Hadley LG, Rouma BS, Saad-Eldin Y. Challenges of pediatric oncology in Africa. Semin Pediatr Surg. 2012 May; 21(2): 136-41.

Page updated: June 28, 2013