In one of India’s largest eye screening program for children - REACH (Refractive Error Among Children), a joint initiative of Orbis and Qatar Fund For Development (QFFD), 1 million children have been screened in the last seven months. The program was launched in India in July last year by Orbis, a leading global NGO working towards prevention and treatment of blindness for over 30 years. The children have been reached through partners who have associated with this initiative and the objective was not only to identify children with refractive errors, but also provide them with spectacles and perform surgeries, if required.
India is home to largest number of blind children. Statistics report 9.3 million children are visually impaired in India, out of which 270,000 are blind. The number of people (5 years of age and above) visually impaired due to uncorrected refractive errors in India is 39.3 million.
Orbis has partnered with hospitals across different cities in India to name a few Aravind Eye Hospital (Madurai), Sankara Nethralaya (Chennai), Little Flower Hospital (Angamaly), VMA Netra Niramay Niketan (West Bengal), PBMA H. V. Desai Eye Hospital (Pune), and Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya (Chitrakoot); reaching more than 2000 schools in seven districts involving a team of more than 100 ophthalmologists, optometrists, and ophthalmic assistants in the program.
Speaking about the program, Dr Rahul Ali, Country Director - India, Orbis International
said, “Orbis launched the INDIA CHILDHOOD BLINDNESS INITIATIVE in 2002. Since then we have been fighting blindness among children through the 31 Children’s Eye Centers across 17 states. This remains the largest network of children’s eye center in the world. Understanding the gravity of the problem and requirement of continuous effort, Orbis launched REACH program to reach the unreached. The objective of REACH program is to increase access to and improve the quality of child eye health by providing comprehensive refractive error services to school-going children. We strongly believe that every child has the right to an early and good quality eye examination, along with care and support to fulfil their fundamental right to education.”
“My son’s teacher informed me when his grades started dropping and complained he did not pay attention in class. I scolded my son not realizing the problem lay with his vision. The issue came to light when a team of eye experts associated with Orbis came to my son’s school for eye screening camp. Had Orbis not intervened, we would have been oblivious to the problem and my son might have lost his vision,” exclaimed a happy father whose son was diagnosed with refractive error, during a screening camp conducted by one of the Orbis partner hospitals, and was given spectacles to correct his vision.
Orbis intends to reach over three million children in three years of its REACH program.