By the year 2020, Chinese citizens will no longer have to suffer from treatable vision-related diseases, the National Office for the Prevention of Blindness announced on Friday.
To achieve this goal, the office announced the establishment of a blindness prevention health and hygiene network which would cover 70 percent of China's villages and 80 percent of its provinces and cities.
By 2020, 70 percent of blind people should have received treatment, which means that the number of cataract surgeries is expected to be no less than one million annually, the office said.
During the meeting, it was also decided to conduct a sample survey nationwide on blindness and visual ailments between 2003 and 2004.
China, home to the world's largest blind population, some 450,000 people suffer the loss of sight, and there are now approximately 5 million blind persons, or 18 percent of the world's total. If no prompt, effective measures are taken, the number could quadruple by 2020, when the number of elderly whose age exceeds 60 is expected to reach 240 million.
Prof. Han Demin, the newly-elected director of the office and also head of the prestigious Beijing Tongren Hospital, said that his office intends to focus on treating the elderly and also on regions with a high incidence of blindness.
The office would, among a series of other measures, send oculists from big cities to outlying, needy areas to serve eye patients and to train medical personnel at the grassroots level.
(Xinhua News Agency November 24, 2002)