According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), while development indicators in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) have risen steadily due to economic growth, the region has lagged behind other areas of China in terms of development, income, poverty as well as health and education. The cultural wealth of Tibet is one of the world”s richest and most celebrated, however, local Tibetans do not fully benefit from their natural and cultural resources. However, in recent years, the situation has reportedly improved. In 2011, Chinese media reported that the number of Tibetan farmers and herders living in absolute poverty was almost halved in the previous five years.
CJI supports a Jesuit working with Braille without Borders in Tibet. Before the opening of this project, blind children in TAR did not have access to education. They led a life on the margins of society with few chances of integration. According to official statistics, 30,000 of the 2.5 million inhabitants of the region are blind or highly visually impaired. Compared to most areas in the world, this is well above average. The causes are both climatic and hygienic: dust, wind, high ultra-violet light radiation, soot in houses caused by heating with coal and/or yak dung, and lack of vitamin A at an early age. Inadequate medical care also plays a role. Cataracts are widespread. Governmental and private organisations have set up eye-camps where medical surgery is being performed and local doctors are taught to do the procedure. However, many blind people can’t be helped this way; a rehabilitation and training centre for the blind has been established for them.