India home to 20% of world’s visually impaired

HYDERABAD: Nearly 40 million people in India, including 1.6 million children, are blind or visually impaired due to refractive error.

ROBINSINGH@TRIBUNE.COM

Naveen S Garewal

Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 4

Nearly 40 million people in India, including 1.6 million children, are blind or visually impaired due to refractive error.

Many among the underprivileged section are unaware that this is correctable. The World Health Organisation (WHO) that has given these numbers also suggests that a majority of these people live in villages and tier-4 cities where they don’t have access to glasses.

“Simply providing eye glasses to 2.2 lakh people over the last six years has improved levels of rural education, reduced crime and prevented accidents among the elderly,” said Vinod Daniel, CEO, India Vision Institute, an NGO functioning through a joint initiative of LV Prasad Eye Institute and Brien Holden Hospital, Sydney, that works with underprivileged schoolchildren across 18 states.

India was home to about 20.5 per cent of the world’s blind, 22.2 per cent of the world’s low-vision population, and 21.9 per cent of those with vision impairment, said Daniel, quoting a study published in the Global Estimates of Visual Impairment

In an interaction with The Tribune, Daniel said as against a national requirement of 1.25 lakh optometrists, India had only 40,000 and that too mostly in urban areas. Studies, he said, had shown that merely providing the correct prescription glasses increased productivity by 34 per cent, raised earning potential by 20 per cent and reduced accidents among the elderly by seven times.

India Vision Institute that works for screening vision among school children has recorded that nearly 10 percent school children need prescription glasses. In the Northeast, the figures are as high as 20 percent. The NGO is involved in vision screening in many states.

Outlining IVI’s work in vision screening and capacity-building programmes in the North, Daniel said around 10,000 children in Rewari had been screened, in addition to holding capacity-building workshop in Rohtak and a programme on the role of optometrists in public health in Gurugram.

Similar workshops were held in Ludhiana, covering a range of topics, including essentials of refraction and ophthalmic dispensing. Another workshop on binocular and low vision was conducted in Chandigarh.


As against a national requirement of 1.25 lakh optometrists, India has only 40,000 and that too mostly in urban areas— Vinod Daniel, CEO, India vision Institute

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