Dr Abdul Kalam Visits ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital in New Delhi
NEW YORK, NY, Mar 17, 2005 -
India’s President, Dr Abdul Kalam, boarded the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital in New Delhi on March 10th to witness the efforts being made by an international team of eye care professionals to restore sight to millions of children and adults who are going blind due to avoidable conditions.
India has an estimated 15 million blind people - more than any other country in the world. Of these, more than 320,000 are children, making India home to one of the largest populations of blind children in the world. An additional 9.2 million children and 210.8 million adults are believed to be visually impaired and at risk of going blind. The promising news is 75 percent of these cases could be prevented or reserved if quality eye care services and adequately trained eye care personnel were accessible to the nation’s billion-plus population.
During his visit to the Flying Eye Hospital, the President boarded the parked aircraft and watched as India’s top eye care professionals worked side-by-side international experts to expand their abilities to treat and cure blindness. He encouraged the nation’s eye care centers and agencies to provide eye care services to rural areas through partnerships. He particularly appreciated ORBIS’s efforts to eliminate childhood blindness and noted that of the 14 pediatric eye care centers in India, 12 of them had been established with the support of ORBIS.
"Beautiful people with beautiful minds do beautiful things. GV Rao, the ORBIS India Director, is one of these people - a great visionary, and the Indian government will increase our eye care health budget to make sure his vision becomes a reality," said President Kalam before disembarking the airborne-hospital after taking time to shake hands with each member of the international crew, which consists of 15 different nationalities including Indian and American.
Taking prompt action, the President departed the Flying Eye Hospital and arranged for the Indian Satellite Research Center to link up with live surgeries occurring on the plane so that eye care institutes throughout the country could participate remotely to facilitate nationwide surgical training.
This 15th ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital program in India, sponsored by FedEx Express and Virgin Atlantic, runs from March 12-18 and includes two community outreach training programs in the neighboring states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. These follow the ORBIS strategy of providing skills rurally, where in developing countries the need is greatest. The 14th program to India occurred a few weeks ago in Kolkata. The two programs combined include approximately 400 doctors, nurses and other essential support personnel who will receive training. Over 125 patients will have free eye operations.
ORBIS’s mobile hospital first landed in India 1988. Ten years later, a permanent office was opened in New Delhi to facilitate year-round projects, which now number over 20 and focus on childhood blindness and corneal blindness.
"We must do something to effectively alleviate the suffering of tens of millions of people who go blind despite medicines and treatments that can prevent their condition," said Oliver Foot, president of ORBIS International. "The human toll is incalculable; the economic cost runs into many billions. Training, providing more infrastructure and public health education, combined with the considerable influence of foreign leaders will help contain this problem and in the long run, rid the global community of avoidable blindness. That’s our goal."
Since 1982, when the Flying Eye Hospital launched from Houston, an estimated 18 million blind people in 83 countries have had their sight restored or preserved as a result of ORBIS’s work. For this reason, ORBIS has been described as one of the most successful American ideas of all time. Seventy heads of state, including former U.S. President’s George HW Bush and Jimmy Carter; three Secretary-Generals of the United Nations; the late Mother Theresa and many influential members of the global community have endorsed project ORBIS.
ORBIS is proud to add President Kalam to this distinguished list of world leaders who are committed to international efforts to fight unnecessary blindness worldwide.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
- Broadcast quality footage of President Kalam's visit is available. To obtain footage or high resolution digital images of the ORBIS program, contact Brooke Johnson (1-646-674-5523, firstname.lastname@example.org)
STATS ON AVIODABLE BLINDNESS
- 75% of world blindness is avoidable. Nearl 37 million people worldwide are blind; 28 million simply do not need to be.
- while India is the second most populous country in the world, it rises to the number one position when considering the prevalence of blindness.
- More than half of childhood blindness in the country could be avoided with adequate trained pediatric eye care personnel and more facilities.
- Sixty three percent of the cases of blindness in India are due to cataracts, a condition that is readily treated in the United States.