Saving sight on Asia’s largest river island

Written by Admin, published on May 6, 2014 Donate Today
Our hospital partner Chandra Prabha, located in the city of Jorhat, India, is an affiliate hospital of the LV Prasad Eye Institute, also a partner of Operation Eyesight and also a World Health Organization collaborating centre.

Have you ever heard of Majuli Island? It’s no great surprise if you haven’t. It’s located in the Brahmaputra River in India’s remote northeastern state of Assam.

Because of its isolation, the island had extremely limited health facilities, and no eye health care at all for its 150,000 people. In 2012, Operation Eyesight launched a hospital-based community eye health project there.

: One of the female community health workers who were recruited on Majuli Island. These workers conduct surveys, give eye and general health education events, liaise with government, organize screening programs, and ensure patients obtain treatment.

Located south of Majuli Island is the city of Jorhat, where our partner Chandra Prabha Eye Hospital is based. Together, we share the mission of ensuring that nobody should be blind because they are poor or because they live too far from a hospital or a doctor. That shared mission, made possible by our generous donors, was what brought us to Majuli Island.

The island is battered by floods three months of the year, cutting off the twice-daily ferry that is the only transportation to the mainland. Its residents face significant erosion of their home. These were just some of the physical factors the new eye health project had to overcome.

The project’s first phase involved recruiting staff, including 10 local community health workers, and conducting door-to-door surveys. This comprehensive study discovered that a shocking six percent of the island’s total population suffered from cataracts, and another six percent had other blinding conditions.

As a result, two vision centres were permanently established on the island, manned by trained vision technicians. These centres are open for walk-in visits, comprehensive eye exams and the distribution of eyeglasses. They provide referrals for surgery and care at Chandra Prabha, which supplies treatment for all Majuli islanders, regardless of their ability to pay.

It’s now cheaper and easier to locally produce eyeglasses, rather than ship donated pairs from Canada. That’s why Operation Eyesight stopped collecting used eyeglasses many years ago!
Refractive error, the primary cause of visual impairment, can be easily resolved by an eye exam and a pair of eye glasses. Now residents such as these can access eye care services.

There is still much work to be done, such as increasing immunization coverage to 100 percent, eliminating vitamin A deficiency blindness and ensuring that women receive ante-natal and post-natal care. Our donors should be proud that they have brought sight and hope to Majuli Island!

Want to learn more about how our donors are saving sight and providing hope in the developing world? Read our Sightlines newsletter here.