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‘Pledge to donate eyes and inspire others’ – Vice President appeals to all citizens

The Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu today said organ donation was one of the noblest causes and appealed to everyone to participate in eye donation and inspire others.

Addressing the valedictory function of ‘National Eye Donation Fortnight’ organised by SAKSHAM (Samadrishti, Kshamata Vikas Evam Anusandhan Mandal), a charitable organization that works for the empowerment of the persons with disabilities, the Vice President described Netra Daan (eye donation) as Sreshth Daan (best donation).

Terming visual impairment as one of the major health challenges, the Vice President highlighted the fact that around 46 lakhs people suffer from blindness in India and most of them are in the 50+ age group.

Calling corneal blindness as the second leading cause of blindness after cataract with about 20,000 cases every year, Naidu expressed concern as most of the people affected in this category were young adults and children. He called for adopting preventive measures, early treatment and corneal transplantation surgery to address the challenge of visual impairment.

As corneal transplantation surgery requires cornea donors, Naidu emphasised the need to increase the number of eye donations to enable eventual eradication of corneal blindness in the country.

Drawing attention to the low numbers of organ donors in the country, he called for changing this mindset by spreading awareness as well as building adequate medical infrastructure for organ harvesting and transplantation at district level.

He cited the examples of king Shibi and sage Dadhichi who had donated their bodies for the welfare of others and called for redefining the values and narratives in modern context to inspire people and promote organ donation. By donating an organ, one sets an example for others to work towards the larger good of the society, he said and called upon every citizen, especially the youth to overcome apprehensions and pledge to donate their organs.

Noting that time is a critical factor in harvesting the organ from a donor’s body and transplanting it, the Vice President emphasised the need to create storage infrastructure and expertise to conduct transplant surgeries at local level so that people from smaller towns are not forced to travel to metros for organ transplant.

“These measures along with increased availability of donated organs would also help in curbing the unethical medical practices”, he opined.

He also suggested that doctors working in government hospitals should devote some time and go to remote areas to provide eye care to rural people. “Let us eliminate the blindness form the country”, he exhorted them.

Quoting the National Blindness survey (2015-19), Naidu hailed the fact that prevalence of blindness has been reduced to 0.36% as compared to 1% in the 2006-07 National survey. Also India has successfully met the goals of ‘WHO Global Action Plan for Universal Eye Health 2014-2019’ which targeted a reduction in the prevalence of visual impairment by 25% by 2019 from the baseline level of 2010.

Referring to‘National Program for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment’ (NPCB&VI), the Vice President praised all stakeholders for the reduction in prevalence of visual impairment.

Data shows that over 64 lakh cataract operations were performed under NPCB&VI in the year 2019-20, a total 65,000 donated eyes were collected for corneal transplantation and 8.57 lakh free spectacles were given to school children.

Noting that NPCB&VI strives to enhance community awareness on eye care by encouraging the participation of Voluntary Organizations and the Private Practitioners, the Vice President appealed to NGOs and individuals to consider this as a mission. There are many private hospitals which are doing good work in the area of eye care across the country, he added.

The Vice President also expressed happiness that eye banking activities have resumed in non-COVID hospitals after being adversely affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

He appreciated SAKSHAM for working towards bringing persons with disabilities into the mainstream of society through various projects such as CAMBA, Pranada, Pranav and SAKSHAM Seva Sankul.

Dr. Dayal Singh Panwar, President, SAKSHAM, Dr. Pawan Sthapak, Vice President of SAKSHAM, Dr Sukumar, Organising Secretary, SAKSHAM and Dr. Santosh Kumar Kraleti, General Secretary, SAKSHAM were among the dignitaries who attended the program virtually.

Following is the full text of the speech –

“I am happy to know that SAKSHAM is working towards bringing persons with disabilities into the mainstream of society. I am happy to note that SAKSHAM is working to towards the integrated development of the disabled persons through various projects such as Cornea Andhatv Mukt Bharat Abhiyan(CAMBA), Pranada, Pranav and SAKSHAM Seva Sankul.

This is a noble work.

Visual impairment is one of the major health challenges, especially in the developing countries.

Globally, there are at least 2.2 billion people who have vision impairment or blindness. Of these, at least 1 billion have vision impairment that is preventable. Major causes of visual impairment include uncorrected refractive errors, cataract, glaucoma and corneal opacities, among others.

In India, around 46 lakhs people suffer from blindness and most of them are in the 50+ age group.  As per the recently conducted National Blindness survey (2015-19), the prevalence of blindness has been reduced to 0.36% as compared to reported 1% in the 2006-07 National survey.

Data suggests that the main cause of blindness is cataract which is responsible for about 66% of the total cases of blindness.

Corneal blindness is the second leading cause of blindness at 7.4% or about 3.3 lakhs cases.

A further 20,000 are added to this number every year. Most of people affected in this category are young adults and children.

There is a great need to address challenge of visual impairment in India with proper intervention and support.

Prevention and early treatment remain the more viable and cost-effective options to reduce the burden of corneal blindness in our country.

However, the vision of corneal blind person can be restored through a surgical procedure known as corneal transplantation, whereby the damaged cornea is replaced by a healthy cornea from an eye donor.

For this, there has to be an increase in the number of eye donations. Because of lack of adequate cornea donors, we are not able to optimally use the advanced scientific technology in corneal transplantation surgery to treat the needy and eradicate corneal blindness from our country.

I am told that similar is the case with other organ transplantations. Of the 85,000 liver failure patients on waitlist annually, less than 3% get the organ. While two lakhs kidney failure patients have reportedly registered for organ transplantation, only 8000 get the kidney. And barely 1% get heart /lung amongst the thousands on waitlist.

The low number of organ donors may be due to lack of awareness as well as inadequate medical infrastructure for organ harvesting and transplantation.

This needs to change.

Dear friends,

Ours is a country that believes in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ and ‘share and care’ is the core of Indian philosophy.

Ours is a culture where kings and sages like Shibi and Dadhichi had donated their bodies. These stories may be a part of our mythology, but myths are built around the core values, ideals and the Samskars of the society.

We have to redefine these values and narratives in modern context to inspire people and promote organ donation.

By donating an organ one not only helps a person to lead a more fulfilling life, but sets an example for others to work towards the larger good of the society.

I call upon every citizen, especially the youth to overcome apprehensions, if any, and pledge to donate their organs.

At the same time, we need to improve our medical infrastructure at district level. Time is a critical factor in harvesting the organ from a donor’s body and transplanting it. We need to focus on building storage infrastructure and creating special expertise to conduct transplant surgeries at local level. At present, people from smaller towns have to travel to metros for organ transplant.

These measures along with increased availability of donated organs would also help in curbing the unethical medical practices.

I understand that the government has implemented a series of measures in its ongoing National Program for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment (NPCB&VI) to combat blindness and visual impairment.

With an objective of “Eye Health for All”, this program strives to reduce the blindness prevalence to 0.3% by the current year.

Estimates suggest that the prevalence of blindness in overall population is 0.36% – we have almost achieved the set target.

Similarly, the WHO Global Action Plan for Universal Eye Health 2014-2019 targeted a reduction in the prevalence of visual impairment by 25% by 2019 from the baseline level of 2010.

With the right policy interventions and focussed implementation, India has successfully achieved the target of 25% reduction in visual impairment.

These achievements are praiseworthy. I heartily congratulate all stakeholders for this.

Data shows that over 64 lakh cataract operations were performed under ‘National Programme for Control of Blindness & Visual Impairment’ in the year 2019-20. During the same period 8.57 lakh free spectacles were given to school children.

A total collection of 65 thousand of donated eyes for corneal transplantation was achieved during previous year under the program.

I appreciate that ‘National Programme for Control of Blindness & Visual Impairment’ aims at prevention and treatment of visual impairment through provision of comprehensive universal eye-care services and quality service delivery.

I am glad to note that one of the objectives of this program is to enhance community awareness on eye care by encouraging the participation of Voluntary Organizations such as SAKSHAM and the Private Practitioners. I appeal to such NGOs and individuals to consider this as a mission.

I compliment SAKSHAM for launching two software applications- Survey application and Camp application for better data management on persons with Visual Impairment, today.

I am happy to note that eye banking activities have resumed in non-COVID hospitals after being adversely affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

Sisters and brothers,

Organ donation is one of the noblest causes.

At the end of this National Eye Donation Fortnight, let us all pledge to donate eyes, promote eye donation and inspire others.

Eye Donation is the Best Gift you can give to someone – Netra Daan, Sreshth Daan.

Jai Hindi!”

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