In a firm step towards rooting out blindness in Calcutta and the districts, the government has approved a project to boost community ophthalmology programmes by organising more orientation camps for youths. These will help them identify cataract patients and bring them in for treatment.
City-based Nihar Munshi Eye Foundation, which has received the go-ahead from the Centre to set up a new multi-crore eye-care centre, has been given the additional responsibility of conducting these camps.
“Earlier, we would find that of 400 persons queuing up at cataract camps, most did not qualify. The elderly, the real patients, would be left out. Therefore, we have decided to train youths in simple techniques of identifying cataract patients and then informing us at the camps. This also ensures more localised healthcare,” said captain P.K. Munshi, managing trustee of the Foundation.
Techniques like flashing a torchlight into the eyes of suspected cataract patients and then asking them to count the fingers from a distance are taught by Munshi at the Foundation’s Dover Place centre.
There are over 10 million people affected by blindness in India at any given moment, and cataract has been found to be the number one cause. Modest estimates suggest that for every 100 individuals screened for cataract, 70 would test positive.
Once the orientation programme is over, the volunteers return to their respective areas and go about identifying cataract patients and then assist the Foundation’s medical team to bring them in for operations.
In the past year, apart from hundreds of free surgeries, the Foundation has also conducted 2,500 micro-surgeries, several of them at a nominal cost. “We don’t believe in turning anyone away,” Munshi adds.