Commission Agenda Entry: Tuesday, 28 March: Encouraging more research into the prevention of blindness

March 21, 2006

Brussels, 20 Mar 2006

The News:

  • With the projected increase in world population and an increase in life expectancy, the number of blind people in the world is likely to rise to more than 75 million by the year 2020.
  • There are an estimated 45 million blind people and 1.5 million blind children in the world. Over 90% of the blind live in developing countries. Of every ten blind people, seven live in Asia and two in Africa.
  • Blindness could be avoided in up to 80% of cases. Six out of the ten can be cured by cataract surgery and a further three could be prevented from going blind if eye care services were readily available to them.
  • The International Agency for the Prevention on Blindness estimates that in 2002, more than 161 million people were visually impaired.
  • Former Nobel Prize winner Susumu Tonegawa, Economist Amartya Sen, former Irish President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, the Presidency of the International Agency for the Prevention on Blindness and former President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors along with a number of leading scientists are to form part of a jury which will judge who should be awarded a sum of â'¬1m for their research into the alleviation of visual problems primarily in developing countries.
  • The award will be granted in 2007 for the first time by the Champalimaud Foundation, which was established in 2005, with a bequest from Portuguese businessman Antonio Champalimaud.
  • President Barroso and Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik are to meet with Leonor Beleza, the President of the Champalimaud Foundation on 28 March to discuss the issue.

The event:
There will be a press point after the meeting on the 13th floor of the Berlaymont to officially launch the award. To attend the press point, please register with Gabriela Tavares.

The sources:
European Commission website:
International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness:

The contacts:
Antonia Mochan +32 2 296 99 21; Johannes Laitenberger + 32 2 296 5745

Item source: AGENDA/05/9

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