BLIND TO BLINDS
GUWAHATI, Aug 12: Assam has literally turned a blind eye to the blind people. The State is lagging far behind than its counterparts in the country in terms of cornea donation giving a major setback to the Centre’s blindness eradication mission.
The latest statistics available with the Eye Bank Association of India (EBAI) have revealed that only 158 corneas were collected in Assam during 2017-18, a figure which was much below even the neighboring West Bengal and Odish. Altogether 1,865 and 1,263 corneas were collected from West Bengal and Odisha respectively during the same period.
The Eye Bank Association of India is a non-profit society working towards the eye donation movement in the country. The last year’s cornea donation figure in Assam was even lower than the same collected in 2016-17 (214 corneas collected).
According to official data available with the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities (Divyangjan), Assam has a total of 4,80,065 differently abled persons of which 80,553 are visually impaired.
The statistics of poor eye donation released close on the heels of the Organ Donation Day on August 13 according to experts is a wakeup call for the Assam Government, NGOs, hospitals and health activists to do something drastic to create awareness at the grassroots about importance of eye donation to eradicate blindness.
Experts said Assam’s low record of eye donation can be attributed to lack of initiative in creating the right level of awareness and too much focus only on cataract operations to prevent blindness.
Part of the low collection of corneas may also be attributed to superstitious belief, communication gap, low awareness, and the need for better functionality for the Cornea Retrieval Programme (CRP).
Cornea collectors working for different agencies also have to face problems in getting the consent from the family of a deceased person who had pledged for organ donation before death.
The ophthalmologist said there is an urgent need to have better infrastructure and more eye banks in the State as many people do not know where and how to donate their eyes.
Eyes from a body have to be retrieved within six hours after the person’s death. The removed eyes should be implanted within the next 24 hours, or stored at an eye bank, where it could be preserved for up to 14 days only. Many harvested eyes are rendered useless as they are declared unfit for transplant.