'People should demand eye services'

'People should demand eye services'

Eighty per cent of blindness in the world is avoidable. All that is needed is awareness,” says Caroline Harper, CEO, Sightsavers International, a global development organisation working in over 30 countries to treat and eliminate causes of blindness.

“Our vision is that nobody should be blind due to avoidable causes like cataract and people who are visually impaired must be able to live lives like any other,” says Harper on the sidelines of her recent visit to India as part of the golden jubilee celebrations of the organisation which also fights for the rights and needs of people who are visually impaired or blind.

Harper, who joined the organisation in 2005 has a history of blindness in her family. “My father was nearly blind, uncle was blind and I am short-sighted. So when I thought of joining an international not-for-profit organisation, after a long stint in the corporate set-up, I emotionally connected with this initiative,” says the London-based, who was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) this year in the Honours List issued by the Queen for her services towards visually impaired people abroad.

According to her, the reasons behind avoidable blindness run deeper than eye diseases that cause them. “They result from and lead to poverty, and are often accompanied by social exclusion and early death. So, instead of just discussing the problem, we work to ensure that people who are visually impaired have access to treatments, counselling and other such rehabilitation,”she mentions, referring to Sightsavers’ 36.4 million eye treatments, five million eye operations and their support to over 4,000 visually impaired children to study in mainstream schools. 

“The bigger challenge for us to is to make sure that people, especially in the rural areas are aware about eye services. Also, they should demand services. That’s how people in authority will realise the importance,” she adds.

India has more than 12 million blind people, about 30 per cent of the world’s total blind population (NPCB – WHO survey), however, she says despite the need for more awareness, India is taking initiatives.

“Just recently, India became the first country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty which is about accessed books in print for the blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print-disabled,” the 66-year-old tells Metrolife.

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