Sight Savers: To Make A World Where No One Is Blind From Avoidable Causes And To Scale Up Operations For Eye Health, Inclusive Education And Social Inclusion

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Brief Us About Sight Savers And Its Work?

Sight Savers is a global development organization which has been working in India since 1966 to eliminate avoidable blindness and to ensure that people who are irreversibly blind receive adequate support to lead their lives with independence and dignity. Sight Savers collaborates with departments of various state governments to scale up operations for eye health, inclusive education and social inclusion – our three core areas of work.

Give An Over View About Your CSR Activities?

Sight Savers ensures availability of affordable and quality eye health services in rural districts, urban slums and government schools. We focus on raising awareness about eye health, training health care workers, school teachers and community volunteers and strengthening their capacities.

Sight Savers has been running its Inclusive Education Programme for the past two decades. Keep a district as the unit of intervention, the programme is running in five states which includes Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan. The key objective of the Inclusive Education Programme is to raise learning outcomes of children with visual impairment through mainstream education. On the ground, Sight Savers aims to promote a positive and enabling environment in schools, families as well as communities to support holistic education of children with visual impairment.

To enable social inclusion of people with disabilities, Sight Savers has focused on three core areas: economic empowerment, strengthening Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) and creating an enabling environment. Sight Savers, thus, supports people with disability through livelihood interventions and facilitates the formation and capacity building of DPOs to carry out effective advocacy for their rights on all platforms and levels.

We work to change the attitudes of communities, schools and governments by ensuring they adopt socially inclusive policies towards people with disabilities so that they are treated with dignity and do not get exempted from their rights to appropriate healthcare, education and income.

Social inclusion for people with disabilities like blindness or visual impairment means ensuring they get equal rights and face no discrimination, especially in the areas of education, healthcare and income.

We work to ensure that the government implements its obligations under international conventions towards people who are visually impaired or blind. Aside from healthcare support, we promote social inclusion through rehabilitation. We work to equip people with disabilities with the skills (daily living, vocational training, etc.), tools and assistance they need to earn a living and lead an independent life.

Where And How Is Sight Savers Working In India?

Sight Savers India works in 13 states, extending eye services to the least served areas.

Priority States also are known as High Focus states were identified by Sight Savers as being the least developed and with the greatest need for eye health care in the country. These include Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In these eight states, intensive engagement in the areas of eye health, inclusive education and social inclusion are carried out by Sight Savers at district and state level to bring about change.

The Learning States are Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. These states are metropolitan cities with larger slum populations and high urban poverty ratio.  The Urban Eye Health Programme and RAAHI- National Truckers’ Eye Health Programme of Sight Savers are carried out in the learning states.

Share About The Milestones That You Have Reached Through Your Work?

Between 2015 and 2019, Sight Savers India successfully completed one million sight restoration surgeries across the country. Sight Savers has been working in India since 1966, treating people with eye conditions and bringing eye health services to the most remote areas of the country. In the last five organization has efficiently delivered 10, 181, 48 cataract surgeries across the country.

Talk Us About Your Future CSR Initiatives

Considering the ongoing pandemic in the country, the number of cataract surgeries performed every year might decrease. The focus of the health department has shifted to Covid-19 patients and therefore, mathematically, there will be backlogs in the number of cataract surgeries that would have taken place in a normal scenario, devoid of the pandemic. It is like this – every day, you are cutting five centimetres of a hill and if you stop for one day then it either remains or grows. Hence, the backlog increases. Since the output is low this year, we have slightly higher battles for subsequent years. However, nobody can ignore health for a couple of years. Nobody can say that health is not an important issue for them. It also gives us a way to strengthen the healthcare system and prepare it for all the uncertainties in the health domain. It also allows us to ensure how eye health integrates into the main healthcare system.

Our premise that the best place to provide eye healthcare services to children in the school is no longer true. We will now have to reimagine the best place to provide these services to children. However, schools are also trying to create systems to make classes and their systems more in line with physical distancing by forming smaller batches. As an organisation, we can suggest measures to authorities. One such idea is that during online classroom breaks, eye health messages can be sent out. As changes occur in education models, we need to be ready with innovations to make eye healthcare accessible to school children. With the education system in the country evolving, eye healthcare system for children in the school-age group will also evolve.

We have to remember that even in these conditions, people are still going blind. The fear of Covid-19 has made it worse for people who are blind. Our reason for helping a blind person has become stronger since a blind person is more vulnerable than a sighted person in the pandemic. Following physical distancing is way tougher for a non-sighted person. Therefore, we also need to ensure that eye healthcare is easily accessible to those in need.

As You Are A Leader Of Various Projects In Sight And Eye Health, How According To You It Is Serving The Society?

India is home to a third of the world’s blind population. The country has about 12 million individuals with visual impairment against the global total of 39 million, according to a report published by the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB). Despite this, when it comes to accessibility of education, healthcare and employment, the visually impaired are cut-off. Only 29.16 per cent of the blind in India are part of the education system, as per a survey conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). The same survey points out that only 6.86 per cent of schools have access to Braille books and audio content. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says some of the major causes of blindness are cataract and refractive errors, which are preventable 80 per cent of the times but lack of awareness and poor access to eye care in India make the situation tough.

Sight Savers’ work in India has enabled thousands of people to lead lives of independence and dignity. We have been working with local partners to strengthen organisations and communities and have supported the treatment of millions of people with eye disorders. We have educated, counselled, trained and rehabilitated people who are visually impaired or blind, and helped extend the reach of eye services to the least served areas of India.

How And Which Companies Have Collaborated With You For Their CSR?

Sight Savers seeks allies who share the same passion for working towards the betterment of society and its marginalised population in the arena of sight, inclusion, livelihood and education for the disabled.

Each of our partners has been an integral part in helping us shape a programme for reaching out to a life where it is most needed. The corporate partner’s goal and objectives are seamlessly blended with our programmes to demonstrate the organisation’s enthusiasm to fulfil its corporate social responsibility.

Our partners include Standard Chartered Bank, Fullerton India, Ray-Ban, Oracle India, HCL Foundation, SIAM, HSBC among others.

Share A Quote About Your Initiatives

Sight Savers’ vision is of a world where no one is blind from avoidable causes and where visually impaired people participate equally in society.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not represent those of Diggaj Media. The pictures are provided by the author and are not authorized to be used by anyone else.

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