Here are your short paragraphs on blindness in India!
India has perhaps the largest blind and potentially blind population in the world. According to the National Survey on Blindness, 2001-2002, 1.1 per cent of the population suffered from blindness, with the prevalence of the problem in the 50 plus population being 8.5 per cent.
Cataract continued to be the main cause of blindness (62.6 per cent).
Uncorrected refractive errors were responsible for 19.7 per cent of blindness. Besides the above, important categories of blindness include glaucoma (5.8 per cent), posterior segment pathology (4.7 per cent), corneal opacities (0.9 per cent), and others (6.2 per cent). Surgical coverage of cataract-affected population was 65.7 per cent with best correction, successful visual outcome after cataract surgery was 93.5 per cent.
A comprehensively conceived national programme for prevention of visual impairment and control of blindness, now known as the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), was launched by Government of India in 1976. It aimed at reducing the prevalence of blindness from 1.4 per cent to 0.3 per cent by the end of the century. Obviously, the target could not be achieved, so it still remains a goal.
The objectives of the NPCB are:
i. To reduce the backlog of blindness through identification and treatment of blind;
ii. To develop eye care facilities in every district;
iii. To develop human resources for providing eye care services:
iv. To improve quality of service delivery; and
v. To secure participation of voluntary organisations in eye care.
Cataract is curable. Most of the cataract operations are performed by voluntary and non-governmental organisations. Heavy backlog of cataract cases can be addressed by (i) optimising the use of the existing ophthalmic manpower and the hospital facilities, (ii) inducting management strategies, (iii) encouraging new, innovative approaches, and (iv) establishing many base eye hospitals especially at the sub-divisional levels.
A Rs 554-crore, World Bank-assisted, seven-year project for checking cataract blindness (cataract control project) was launched in 1994-95 in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan. The project sought to improve the quality of cataract survey, and reduce the huge backlog of cataract cases.
The efforts included introduction of cost-effective systems of managing hospital and eye camp- based operation and maintenance of high standards, strengthening the states’ technological capacity and developing institutional capacity, and evolving appropriate coordination mechanisms.
At the end of the Tenth Plan, around 604 District Blindness Control Societies (DBCs) had been established. During 2006-07, around 62,000 cataract surgeries had been reported in north-east states against the set target of 59,000 cataract surgeries.
Strategies for the Eleventh Plan (2008-2013) include the following:
i. Construction of dedicated eye wards and eye operation theatres in districts and sub-district hospitals in north-eastern states, Bihar, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and few other states as per demand;
ii. Appointment of ophthalmic surgeons and ophthalmic assistants in new districts in district hospitals and sub-district hospitals;
iii. Appointment of ophthalmic assistants in public health centres where there are none;
iv. Appointment of eye donation counselors on contract basis in eye banks under government sector as well as NGOs;
v. Grant-in-aid for NGOs for management of other eye diseases other than cataract;
vi. Special attention to clear cataract backlog in states;
vii. Telemedicine in ophthalmology—eye care management information and communication network;
viii. Involvement of private practioners; and
ix. A provision of Rs 1550 crore proposed for implementation of NPCB during the entire plan period (2008-2013).
In May 2008, the Union Health Ministry released a report on the blind in India. It was found that most of the states in India had a heavy number of blind people, which cumulatively made India home to the largest number of people suffering from blindness.
Uttar Pradesh with 15.6 lakh blind had the highest number of sight-disadvantaged persons in India followed by Delhi at 15.5 lakh, Andhra Pradesh at 10 lakh, West Bengal with 9.5 lakh, Karnataka had 9.3 lakh blind, and Maharashtra had 9.1 lakh such people.
Other states like Orissa recorded 5.13 lakh blind people, Madhya Pradesh 7 lakh, Bihar 6.46 lakh, and Haryana 3.98 lakh. As far as prevalence was concerned, after Assam at 4 per cent, 2.24 per cent of Andhra Pradesh’s population was visually disadvantaged. The figures were found to be very high when compared to the national blindness prevalence rate of 1.1 per cent.
As far as the number of cataract surgeries conducted were concerned, Gujarat topped the list with 6.4 lakh surgeries, followed by Maharashtra (6 lakh), Andhra Pradesh (4.93 lakh), Uttar Pradesh (4.75 lakh) and Tamil Nadu (3.52 lakh).
Being home to the world’s largest number of blind people at 12 million of the 37 million, the Government of India has decided to upgrade the NPCB.
NGOs and health ministry officials posted in district and sub-district hospitals will screen all those living in rural areas for a range of eye diseases, including glaucoma, trachoma, corneal injuries and diabetic retinopathy.
Till now, they were mostly screened for just cataract financial incentives are also being introduced to get more NGOs to come forward in the fight against blindness. NGOs working to control blindness in tribal and rural belts are being given a one-time grant of Rs 25 lakh to improve their infrastructure, services and for capacity building.
Visual impairment due to refractive errors amongst children has assumed special prominence. This is being combated by intensifying eye screening of the children by NPCB’s mobile units and various voluntary organisational functioning centrally and through its state and district branches. An innovation introduced is involving the rural school teachers in the screening programme.
A considerable number of people lose their eyesight due to accidents which can be prevented. Eye injuries through crackers and fireworks occur during the festivals. In welding industries, stone breaking units, etc., the protective gadgets that are suggested by the industries are ignored, the shop floor level instructions are not displayed, many employers do not provide the eye shields, etc.
Even when these are supplied, they are not used by the workers for various reasons. Trade unions and workers should be educated about the importance of such protective gadgets and their proper use.
Sustained education of the workers, industrialists, school children, unorganised sector units and suitable statutory measures to ensure use of the safety methods should be undertaken. This calls for involving all mass media channels, electronic and others, and optimising the use of existing education network.