A scary Vision 2020!

Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group/ Delhi

For years now, Aishwarya Rai has been making a powerful and noble plea through a nationwide ad campaign to promote eye donations. To drive home her point, the former Miss World and Bollywood actor has also pledged her eyes. But what is really unfortunate in the extreme is that all that isn’t working in boosting the number of people donating eyes.

According to the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) 2012-13 report, India abysmally lacks corneas required for eye transplantations. The figures are startling. In 2012-13, the country collected only 4,417 corneas against a whopping requirement of 80,000-1, 00,000 per year.

On the occasion of World Sight Day which is celebrated every year on October 11, Aishwarya’s efforts could highlight the importance of eye donation for those who wants others to stick around.

Reiterating that the situation of eye donation in India remains abysmal, Dr. Sanjay Dhawan, additional director and head of Ophthalmology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, laments, “Eye donation has although picked up in recent years due to the efforts of some Bollywood actors but we are still lagging behind from the desirable target.”

20.5 percent of people in India are blind and 21.9 percent are visually impaired according to the World Health Organisation report ‘Global data on Visual Impairments 2010’. Globally 39 million people are blind and 285 million people are visually impaired.

Pointing out the main cause behind lack of effective eye donation in India, Dr. Dhawan at Fortis said, “There is a lot of resistance in people in India regarding eye donation. Lots of myths are associated with the same which acts as a hindrance in eye donation.”

Endorsing the view, Rajiv Pradhan, head at Tej Kohli Foundation, a non –governmental organisation working to promote eye donation in India, said, “The scenario is gruesome as people are not aware and also optimum resources are not available. Once a person dies, there is a lot of hesitation from the relative’s side as the general view stands that if the corneas get extracted and it gets transplanted it would lead to deformities.”

Up to 80 percent of the world`s blindness is avoidable. Avoidable blindness is defined as blindness which could be either treated or prevented by known and cost-effective means. Although there are many other causes of vision impairment, VISION 2020 seeks to address the main causes of avoidable blindness, in order to have the greatest possible impact on vision loss worldwide.

Cataract (62.6 percent), refractive error (19.70 percent) and glaucoma (5.80 percent) are the main causes of blindness in India. India, as one of the biggest developing countries, has a large number of blind requiring sight-restoring cataract surgeries.

“If people get glasses at proper time, blindness due to refractive error can be treated quickly and easily,” suggested an optimistic Pradhan at Tej Kohli Foundation.

National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) was launched in the year 1976 as a 100 percent centrally sponsored scheme with the goal to reduce the prevalence of blindness from 1.4 percent to 0.3 percent .NPCB is committed to reduce the burden of avoidable blindness including blindness due to cataract to 0.3 percent by the year 2020 in India.

Highlighting the criteria for eye donation, Dr. Satish Mehta, Consultant, Ophthalmology at Moolchand Eye Clinic, Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi, said, “When someone gives consent for eye donation during their lifetime it means that their eyes will be removed within a few hours after death by a trained professional.

Verbal consent from the senior member available next-of-kin is sufficient. If the death has occurred at the hospital, it will be done there; and if at home, one has to call the nearest eye bank. The dead body is not required to be taken anywhere, and the procedure takes few minutes and there is no disfigurement of eyes.”

Suggesting measures to overcome the current scenario of eye donation in India, Dr. Dhawan at Fortis, said, “There should be one universal helpline number for reaching to all eye banks in India. Also as eye donation occurs after death, so it is extremely important to educate the senior citizens of our country to promote eye donation.”

Highlighting the importance of non–governmental organisations in eye donation, Pradhan at Tej Kohli Foundation further added, “Civil society organisations should come forward to promote eye donation by organising events and camps.”