In one of India’s largest eye screening programme for children, one million children have been screened in the last seven months under REACH (Refractive Error Among Children), a joint programme of Orbis and Qatar Fund For Development (QFFD).
The children have been reached through partners, who have associated with this initiative. The objective was not only to identify children with refractive errors, but also provide them with spectacles and perform surgeries, if required.
“Orbis launched the India Childhood Blindness Initiative in 2002. Since then we have been fighting blindness among children through the 31 children’s eye centres across 17 states. This remains the largest network of children’s eye centre in the world,” said Dr Rahul Ali, Country Director – India, Orbis International.
Orbis has partnered with hospitals across various cities in India to make this initiative successful. Aravind Eye Hospital (Madurai), Sankara Nethralaya (Chennai), Little Flower Hospital (Angamaly), VMA Netra Niramay Niketan (West Bengal), PBMA HV Desai Eye Hospital (Pune) and Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya (Chitrakoot) are among the hospitals which have been participating in the initiative.
Launched in India in July last year, more than 2,000 schools in seven districts have been covered under REACH by a team of more than 100 ophthalmologists, optometrists, and ophthalmic assistants.
India is home to largest number of blind children. According to statistics, 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.
“The objective of REACH programme 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 fulfill their fundamental right to education,” said Dr Ali.