A total of 92 children were examined, and 71 (77.2%) of them had severe vision impairment and blindness. The major causes of vision loss were corneal scars (16.9%), cataract (12.7%), phthisis bulbi (11.3%), congenital eye deformities (11.3%), optic atrophy (9.3%), and presumed chorioretinal Toxoplasma scars (7.0%). Hereditary factors were the major known etiological category (15.5%) followed by the sequel of eye injuries (12.7%). Blindness due to vitamin A deficiency was not found, whereas infectious causes such as measles and ophthalmia neonatorum were relatively absent (one case each). Potentially avoidable causes of vision impairment were accounted for in 47.9% of children.
This study provides the first direct evidence on childhood vision impairment in Eritrea. Despite the limitations, it is clearly shown that nearly half of the vision loss is due to avoidable causes. Thus, preventive public health strategies, specialist pediatric eye care, and rehabilitative services are recommended to address childhood vision impairment in Eritrea.