A young patient is screened on board a vision van run by the Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre in Kolkata

India: Delivering Critical Eye Care and Food Aid In a Pandemic

July 2020

2020 is our 20th anniversary in India, and we're so proud of all our colleagues in India have accomplished in the last two decades. We'll take some time to celebrate later in the year, but right now, there are more pressing matters. Because of COVID-19, we're adapting our programs to save sight and lives.

India is home to more than 20 percent of the world’s visually impaired people. With an already strained healthcare system and many of its citizens living in poverty, India’s been hit hard by the pandemic. That’s why our partnerships to save sight in India are so essential.

Partnerships are at the heart of all that we do. We’ve developed long-term, dynamic relationships with our partner hospitals in India. Over the last 20 years, we’ve collaboratively built up their capacity and set up eye hospitals in communities across the country. Together, we work to find solutions that will one day bring an end to avoidable blindness.

Your support means people throughout India are getting their sight back. With the continued commitment from the entire Orbis family—including you—we will transform the lives of millions more.

Join us in celebrating four of our partner hospitals in India. They all have gone above and beyond in their response to COVID-19. Their sight-saving work and extraordinary humanitarian efforts make us proud. We are confident you’ll be proud, too.

PROVIDING URGENT EYE CARE AND FOOD AID DURING COVID-19

Partner Hospital: VMA Netra Niramay Niketan (VMANNN) in Haldia

The COVID-19 lockdown forced most Orbis partner eye hospitals to pause their REACH community eye care programs. With school closings and large-scale gatherings prohibited, VMANNN in Haldia adapted its services to meet the new challenges brought on by the global health crisis.

The pandemic has brought unforeseen changes that have pushed the entire VMANNN team to reach beyond its limits. Thankfully, two of VMANNN’s leaders, Dr. Asim Sil and Dr. Subhra Sil, a husband-wife duo, have shown exceptional leadership and commitment during the lockdown. The qualities they and their team have displayed help to make VMANNN a strong Orbis partner in the fight against blindness.

Orbis Volunteer Faculty Dr. Asim Sil, Medical Director of VMANNN, had a problem. When the lockdown in India started, the hospital had only a skeleton staff to deal with urgent cases. As patients continued to attend with emergencies, staff members had to be ready to treat them even well below optimal strength. But how?

That’s when the REACH team jumped into action. With school screening programs on hold due to the lockdown, the REACH team members had an opportunity to help the hospital in new ways during COVID-19. Led by Dr. Subhra Sil, ophthalmologist and REACH project head, the team’s members learned new skills that they applied immediately.

The team was so instrumental in running the show. They have worked in various capacities: to register patients, refraction of patients, screened them, assisted the doctors to attend to them. They’ve done optical coherence tomography (OCT) and ultrasonography. They learned the skills and applied them in no time. During this crisis period, I don’t know what we would have done without the REACH team.

Dr. Asim Sil

Volunteer Faculty Member and Medical Director, VMANNN

With the REACH team’s ongoing help, the doctors can focus on patients in greatest need of emergency care. Dr. Sil and Dr. Sil both treated complicated cases during COVID-19. Recently, for example, a two-month-old baby and a two-year-old child arrived at the hospital with foreign objects lodged in their eyes. Thanks to the entire team’s ability to adapt during the pandemic, they saved each child’s vision.

Slideshow: The VMANNN team works together to save sight during COVID-19

Delivering Relief Packages

When the REACH team members aren’t on hospital duty, they continue to help by delivering food and sanitation packs to local communities. The hospital worked with the local police to prioritize people with disabilities, widows, and daily wage earners for food aid.

During the pandemic, VMANNN Hospital also provides essential food packages to locals in greatest need

The hospital provides food packages and sanitation packs to people in greatest need.

Orbis and VMANNN have been partners in the fight against preventable blindness in India since 2007. The hospital administered an impressive 300,000 screenings in the past three years.

Please help Orbis continue to save sight around the world by donating to the COVID-19 Emergency Vision Fund. Its purpose is to quickly raise and distribute funds for essential Orbis programs that are continuing around the world. With many of our global fundraising events and activities canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, this fund is critical. And so is your support.

Donate Now

Help our Orbis heroes continue their vital work during the pandemic.

FEEDING THE HUNGRY DURING THE PANDEMIC

Partner Hospital: Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital in Bihar

As India is gripped by the coronavirus crisis, millions have been stranded with no food and shelter. The Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital, an Orbis eye partner, is doing all it can to feed the hungry and protect the community from COVID-19.

Bihar, one of the poorest of Indian states, is home to approximately 700,000 people who are living with blindness. Due to the high level of poverty, the challenge right now is extensive: keep the coronavirus contained and keep feeding the people.

The nationwide lockdown has prevented 80 percent of Akhand Jyoti’s patients from working. Without work, there is no money for food. Because of this crisis, the hospital launched The Food Express, aiming to provide 100,000 food packages in 100 days to those who are suffering the most. Each package consists of essentials such as rice, potatoes, oil, flour, and sugar.

Delivering food packages door-to-door has created opportunities for the Akhand Jyoti team to interact daily with many families. The team uses the time to teach about social distancing, frequent hand washing, and COVID-19 symptoms. In their travels, the team has given out thousands of face masks, too.

Slideshow: The Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital is doing all it can to feed the hungry during COVID-19

One of the people who benefited from Akhand Jyoti’s generosity is a woman named Fuljharo. Not having eaten for four days, Fuljharo was visibly emotional as she accepted the food ration bag from the hospital’s team.

I thought that I would die of hunger.

Fuljharo

A recipient of food aid from the Akhand Jyoti team

We've been working with Akhand Jyoti since 2016 and are so proud of their efforts to support their local community. Thanks to supporters like you, we established the Children's Eye Center and helped strengthen the overall capacity of the hospital, which enabled them to deal with emergencies like this.

You can be the hero for people who need hope and good health. Generous supporters make it possible to give people across the world their sight back. And the kindness of supporters is far-reaching—extending not just to people today, but to build a lasting legacy of quality eye care that will ensure no one goes needlessly blind tomorrow.

DONATE NOW TO THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY VISION FUND

Children and adults with time-sensitive eye conditions need your help right now.

VISION VANS: DELIVERING EYE HEALTH ON WHEELS

Partner Hospital: Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre in Kolkata

While the Flying Eye Hospital is temporarily grounded due to COVID-19, Orbis’s mission to deliver sight-saving work continues. In Kolkata, urgent eye care work rolls on with the help of Vision Vans.

Orbis partner Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre in Kolkata is bringing urgent eye care directly to the doorstep of patients who need it most. Through the Reach Out for Eye Emergency program, Susrut’s Vision Vans have proven to be invaluable, especially during the pandemic.

Eye health services have become inaccessible for many people due to the suspension of public transportation during lockdown. To address this challenge, Susrut is working with the local police commissioners. Together, they identify patients who need emergency eye care services.

The Vision Van teams provide urgent eye care by screening and diagnosing emergency cases on board, while also taking the strain off local hospitals as they deal with the impact of COVID-19. Each Vision Van is led by a doctor, an optometrist, and two medical assistants. The teams are practicing social distancing, they’re sanitizing, and they’re wearing PPE to ensure patients and colleagues are as safe as possible.

Slideshow: In Kolkata, urgent eye care is safely delivered with the help of the Vision Vans

Making PPE for frontline workers

A shortage of PPE kits for eye care workers initially posed a problem for Susrut. Because PPE is essential for all frontline workers to be safe, Susrut decided to make their own PPE kits in-house.

A woman making PPE to protect eye health workers at Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre in Kolkata

This decision has not only protected eye care workers during COVID-19, but it has also kept costs low and hospital workers employed.

Frontline eye care workers wear bespoke PPE made at Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre in Kolkata

Orbis has been partnering with Susrut since 2005. Most recently, we collaborated with Susrut as part of the Comprehensive Childhood Blindness Initiative to reduce avoidable blindness and visual impairment among children in West Bengal.

Please help Orbis continue to save sight around the world by donating to the COVID-19 Emergency Vision Fund. Its purpose is to quickly raise and distribute funds for essential Orbis programs that are continuing around the world. With many of our global fundraising events and activities canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, this fund is critical. And so is your support.

Donate Now

Help our Orbis heroes continue their vital work during the pandemic

KEEPING EYE CARE WORKERS SAFE AND IMPROVING WOMEN’S LIVES

Partner Hospital: Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya (SNC) in Chitrakoot

Although the COVID-19 health crisis has overwhelmed communities around the world, there have been beautiful acts of ingenuity and caring. Such traits are reflected in Orbis partner Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya (SNC) in Chitrakoot.

Yogita is a young woman who lives with her mother, father, and sister in a tiny village near the SNC hospital in Chitrakoot. When she was small, Yogita developed a passion for sewing. She worked at it. Her skills improved. Soon enough, she began to dream of becoming a seamstress. So, she persuaded her parents to send her to a vocational sewing program.

The cost of the program was not easy for the family to afford. For years, the four of them relied solely on the meager income of Yogita’s father, a daily wage laborer. But recently, as he advanced in years, their financial situation became even more dire. The manual labor took a toll on the aging man’s body, and he would often go for days without working because he could not physically bear the strain

Luckily, things were about to change.

SNC had a problem: there was a shortage of PPE for their doctors and other staff members. In countries where such shortages exist, PPE tends to be reserved for workers directly treating patients with COVID-19. Other healthcare professionals are left to go without.

SNC was among those hospitals lacking PPE. Yet rather than go without or pay exorbitant market prices, they decided to make the best of a tough situation. They set to work creating their own PPE in-house. They do so even now, with the help of a local women’s self-help group.

Yogita is one of the women making PPE for the hospital. She was hired full-time to sew masks, gowns, and other medical supplies. This arrangement is a win-win for the community. SNC buys the PPE from the group at a reasonable price, and the women are empowered by earning income for their families.

Slideshow: Yogita and her colleagues take pride in their work making PPE and keeping eye health workers stay safe during COVID-19

All of the PPE made by Yogita and her colleagues is rigorously inspected before use to make sure it meets regulations and will keep doctors safe. The quality control team includes ophthalmologists, a pathologist, a general surgeon, and an optometrist.

This innovative program helps not only the doctors who receive the PPE but also the women who, as they create the supplies, receive training as well as income. Yogita’s income has saved her family. Her earnings now support her, her parents, and her sister. They even pay for her sister’s schooling.

This training and job have transformed my life. I want to support my little sister with her studies to become a nurse.

Yogita

Employee of a women’s self-help group making PPE for SNC hospital

Since 2003, Orbis India has worked with SNC to help its community by improving pediatric eye care services and providing community eye care programs for school children. The Children’s Eye Center, developed with our support, examines and treats more than 35,000 pediatric patients and performs approximately 2,600 surgeries annually.

EMERGENCY EYE CARE MUST CONTINUE

COVID-19 has altered the world in many ways, yet the fight against blindness has not stopped and must never stop. We are proud of our partners in India for their sight-saving work and their extraordinary humanitarian efforts during the global pandemic.

You and every member of the Orbis family make it possible for eye health professionals around the world to receive the support they need to restore sight in their communities.

Please help Orbis continue to save sight by donating to the COVID-19 Emergency Vision Fund. Its purpose is to quickly raise and distribute funds for essential Orbis programs that are continuing around the world. With many of our global fundraising events and activities canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, this fund is critical. And so is your support.

The fight against global blindness can’t wait. People with serious, vision-threatening eye conditions need your help now.

Donate today

Help us teach and train eye teams around the world during Covid-19.