“Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful”
- Helen Keller
Out of the 217 million with moderate to severe vision impairment, India is home to 56.6 million, including over 8.8 million with blindness. Eye care can sometimes be an uphill battle, but one that’s worth waging, because over 80% of blindness can be cured, given the right treatment. This is the foundation for the Seeing is Believing by Standard Chartered initiative.
At Seeing is Believing by Standard Chartered, our mission is to treat avoidable blindness and visual impairment by improving access to affordable and quality eye care and make it easier for those affected to return to education and work.
In India, we have opened 135 vision centers across 22 states and have conducted 2.36 million cataract surgeries and dispensed close to 1,97,000 spectacles overall benefitting close to 14 million people since the inception of Seeing is Believing by Standard Chartered programme. We plan to declare 3000 villages blindness free and open 200 vision centres over the next 2 years, with the first batch of 90 opening by December 2020. These vision centres are expected to benefit 6.8 million people.
The Seeing is Believing by Standard Chartered initiative also funds individuals and groups who conduct breakthrough research in the field of eye healthcare. Two such innovations include the Hummingbird Phacoemulsification (Phaco) Machine, developed by Aurolab and the Simply Reading App, developed by the Daisy Consortium.
Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the world and the small incision cataract surgery (SICS), widely adopted to cure the condition, delays patient recovery, thereby, impacting their livelihood. The Phaco machine addresses the concerns of expensive equipment and recurring cost of consumables, making it a solution that’s ten times more cost-effective. Its lightweight, compact design supports the challenges often faced by third world countries such as voltage fluctuations, poor external air systems, frequent power outages, etc, thereby allowing people from marginalised communities to benefit from the modern phaco procedure.
The Simply Reading App on the other hand is a first-of-its-kind app in India that allows visually challenged people access to digital books with a talkback feature and Braille back screen reading software. It is the only application connected to Sugamya Pustakalaya, India’s first and largest library of accessible books and Bookshare which enables searching, downloading and reading of books on Android devices. It can be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store.
India has one doctor for every 1000 people, which is less than the World Health Organization standard. Availability of mid-level trained paramedic officers is a sustainable solution to effectively plugging this gap and releasing the ophthalmologist’s time for more complex tasks and surgeries.
Our Futuremakers by Standard Chartered programme enables disadvantaged young people to gain new skills and access job opportunities for a brighter economic future. We have set up an Eye Care Academy with L.V Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad – the first of its kind, which will create a workforce of high-quality eye care professionals from the underprivileged to combat blindness and visual impairment in India through classroom teaching and other online platforms. It is estimated that over 20,000 people will benefit over three years. A similar academy is being set up with Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in New Delhi to cater to the North India belt. The project will develop human capital for clinical, allied health work and managerial streams for India and the global eye care community.