The news marks Earth Day (22 April) which celebrates initiatives around the world that protect the planet.
Run on solar power in an area frequently affected by power cuts, the Green Vision Centres are a collaboration between of Orbis, the international eye care charity fighting avoidable blindness worldwide, and the Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre in West Bengal.
Globally, 1.1 billion people live with blindness, and 90% of it is avoidable. Most of these people live in low- to middle-income countries. The Green Vision Centres are especially important for treating children and babies with sight loss. As well as outreach centres, electric scooters are used to conduct local school and door-to-door screenings and create awareness in the community of eye care.
“More children are blind in India than in any other country, and in over half of cases, sight could be restored with early intervention and treatment,” said Dr Rishi Raj Borah, Country Director for Orbis India.
Dr Borah continued: “Ensuring that families can access their children’s care close to home is critical to overcoming this challenge. That's why I'm so proud of the Green Vision Centres in operation today – with all the potential they represent for children, for rural communities and for our planet.”
For children in disadvantaged communities, education is often the only way out of a cycle of poverty. If a child’s eye condition is not identified early enough, it can lead to irreversible blindness.
At the Green Vision Centres, children have free access to eye screenings, glasses and other eye care services. The centres also provide uninterrupted primary eye care services to the community. Routine eye screenings are critical to ensure that conditions are caught early, when they are most likely to be treatable. For complex cases in which more advanced care is needed, each centre is connected with an existing hospital for referrals. Staff also conduct screenings and provide glasses to children in schools and day care centres located in the communities surrounding them.
Five of the centres opened in the Murshidabad district of West Bengal with support from the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), and four opened in the Howrah, North 24 and South 24 Parganas districts with support from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind. All nine centres are run in coordination with Orbis’s local partner Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre.
The five Green Vision Centres in Murshidabad also address a variety of traditional barriers for women and girls. Orbis trained women-led management teams to run the centres, empowering women in the community through job creation and increasing their financial independence. Fifteen vision technicians have already been trained and employed to work in the new facilities. An added benefit to having female staff is that many women in rural communities in India are more likely to seek eye care for themselves and their children when it is administered by other women.
India was one of the first countries where Orbis established a local office, and the organisation has made far-reaching impact – for children in particular – over the past two decades. When Orbis began working in India, paediatric ophthalmology was not yet seen as a distinct specialty in India, and there was only one eye care centre for every 100 million children across the country. Over the years, Orbis has developed a comprehensive network of 33 Children's Eye Centres across 17 states, with one eye care centre for every 20 million children.
In total, Orbis has conducted more than 17.5 million paediatric eye screenings, provided medical and optical treatment to 1.6 million children, performed 103,000 surgeries on children and organized 180,000 ophthalmic trainings completed by doctors, nurses, community health workers and others in India. The nine new Green Vision Centres are among 22 that Orbis has established across India to date.
- For more information on conditions including cataracts, glaucoma and trachoma, visit https://gbr.orbis.org/en/avoidable-blindness
- For statistics and information about vision loss and avoidable blindness, visit https://www.iapb.org/news/updated-vision-atlas-shows-1-1-billion-people-have-vision-loss/