Staff Reporter

Focus is on northeast, west and central India

CHENNAI: Nationwide community-based paediatric eye care programmes and mandatory eye tests would mitigate prevalence of childhood blindness, said G. V. Rao, India country director of ORBIS International.

Dr. Rao, who recently delivered the Mrs. Nagamani Dharmapuri Endowment Lecture organised by Medical Research Foundation of which Sankara Nethralaya is a unit, said compulsory training for schoolteachers, anganwadi (playschool) administrators and paediatric ophthalmologists would help to identify children in need of treatment.

The non-governmental organisation's survey had found that service for eye care was minimal at many places. When the NGO entered the country in 2002, quality treatment for children was available in four treatment centres only. "In three years we have built 15 centres and will increase the number to 50 in another three years." The Government had assured support to 50 more, bringing it to 100 treatment centres for children.

Dr. Rao cited the success story of Sadguru Nethra Chikitsalaya in Chitrakoot bordering Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. ORBIS tied up with the hospital, a charity institution in 2002. Though the hospital receives over 35,000 patients, doctors routinely resigned because of lack of growth prospects. Now the hospital has two trained eye care teams, a child-friendly department and "patient catchments" from Bihar, UP and MP at the camps the hospital conducts. Also, 30 per cent of its paediatric surgeries are paid. Henceforth ORBIS India will focus on the northeast, east, west, north and central India., Dr. Rao said.

S. S. Badrinath, chairman, T. S. Surendran, vice-chairman, Lingam Gopal, chairman-elect and consultants Sumita Agarkar, Sujata Guha and Kavitha Kalaivani of Sankara Nethralaya also spoke.