Gifting Sight to Disadvantaged Elders with HelpAge India’s ‘Aankhon Ka Tara’ Campaign
Imagine a health problem which has causes that are 90% treatable, the solution is widely available and cost effective, and yet millions suffer and struggle on daily basis. Avoidable blindness/visual impairment is a significant public health problem in India. This is particularly serious in the age group of 50 plus, where 1 in 4 are visually impaired (varying degree of severity). This age group has 5X risk compared to adult population in general. As per the ‘National Blindness & Visual Impairment Survey’, more than 10 million are affected by blindness or severe vision impairment, and three times more have varying degrees of impairment.
But what is particularly striking is that both cataract (clouding of eye lens) and refraction error, the two important causes responsible for 90% of avoidable cases, are easily addressable. The other reasons are due to more complex conditions relating to cornea issues, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and others.
Well established technological and medical solutions are there for both. Cataract is treated through simple surgery costing about Rs 2500-3000 (cost at non-profit centres for social purpose; higher at others). Eyeglasses/spectacles costing about Rs 500 has been seen as one of the most impactful inventions and many of us, who are using them would testify to this.
So why are millions then not able to access clear eyesight? The reasons are linked to social and economic vulnerability. People without formal education are at 6X risk, since awareness is low and misconceptions are high. The other key barrier is linked to affordability, i.e. income or livelihoods. For most working in the informal sector and earning low wages, even Rs 500-2500 is difficult to afford and most tend to keep postponing it. Instead, they put up with the daily struggle and for some life comes to a stop. Think about the farm worker who is half as productive, a rickshaw puller who is unable to work, or a tailor who struggles to get work done, or a situation closer to the family/social context – a grandmother who is unable to see the smile on her children and grandchildren’s faces.
Vision is a gift and blessing, but sadly many are not fortunate and suffer simply due to lack of access. Clear vision has become a privilege. Diwali is a time of lights, where we may appreciate this blessing even more. The campaign ‘Aankhon Ka Tara’ (star of my eyes) is an effort to bridge this gap by encouraging all of us to become the star for someone else who is underprivileged, by bringing light into their lives and help them get clear vision for a better quality of life.
At HelpAge India, we are committed to our vision restoration program for the poor and disadvantaged. For those leading corporate/foundation/CSR programs and would like to support or partner, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those wanting to contribute can log in on our campaign site: www.helpageindia.org/aankhonkatara
This article has been written by:
CEO, HelpAge India