Visionary Eyecare Initiative To Benefit Millions In Slumdog Millionaire Setting
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20 February 2009
Today sees the launch of a major new initiative to tackle avoidable blindness in one of the poorest communities in India, offering eye care to millions of Mumbai’s citizens in underserved areas of the city, such as Dharavi – the setting of the award winning film, Slumdog Millionaire
Standard Chartered Bank, has announced that it will be committing $1 million to the Mumbai Eye Care Campaign as part of its community investment programme Seeing is Believing. This money will go towards developing refractive error services, screening over 1 million people over the next five years.
The Mumbai Eye Care Campaign will be implemented by Sightsavers International with its partners and will focus on bringing eye care to some of the most vulnerable groups, such as women and children. The project will also target people with a low socio–economic status such as rickshaw and taxi drivers, construction workers and domestic helpers.
The Campaign will tackle the growing problem of refractive error (long or short sightedness) – the second leading cause of blindness in India. Approximately 1.4 million people in India are effectively blind for the want of a pair of glasses, even though they are relatively cheap and easy to provide.
Joanna Conlon of Standard Chartered Bank is Seeing Is Believing’s programme manager. She commented: "With so much of our business in the developing world, avoidable blindness is a major problem in many of our markets. And it is not just a health issue: it is also an economic issue, depriving those affected of education and a job, and often rendering them economically dependent. The consequences are highly detrimental to for families and communities – deprived of the productivity of both the cared for and the carers.
At Standard Chartered we recognise that our business is only as strong as the communities in which we operate – so by investing in the health of our communities, we are ensuring we have a sustainable business in the long term."
The Mumbai Eye Care Campaign is part of the latest phase of Seeing is Believing, which will see $20 million of funding benefiting 20 million people in 20 cities by 2015, with a focus on bringing comprehensive eye care services to urban areas – where over half of the world’s population now lives.
Elizabeth Kurian, regional director of Sightsavers India added: “The global success of Slumdog Millionaire has brought the reality of daily life in the urban areas such as Dharavi to the world’s attention. The Mumbai Eye Care Campaign will bring fast and long–lasting benefits and services to as many as one million of Mumbai’s less well off individuals.
Sightsavers is delighted to be working in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank and the Seeing Is Believing programme and, together with our partners, we are all set to transform the lives of some of Mumbai’s most vulnerable communities with something as simple as a pair of glasses.”
Sightsavers’ work in India, which started in 1966, has supported the treatment of millions of people with eye disorders and brought eye services to some of the least served areas of the country. In addition, many thousands of irreversibly blind people have received rehabilitation and educational support to enable them to lead more independent lives.
Sightsavers has been supporting a pilot project in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum located in central Mumbai, since 2008. Dharavi is home to more than one million people, including 300,000 children and the vast majority of people lack access to the most basic services such as clean water and sanitation. The Mumbai Eye Care Campaign will expand this pilot project, focusing on providing refractive error services for slums areas such as Bhabrekar Nagar in Malad, Bharat Nagar in Bandra and Shivaji Nagar at Mankhurd.
Through the Mumbai Eye Care Campaign and other programmes throughout India, Sightsavers is working with its partners and supporters, such as Standard Chartered Bank, to create the best and affordable eye care services and, simultaneously working for the social inclusion of irreversibly blind persons through initiatives aimed at improving access to education and economic empowerment.
About Sightsavers International
Sightsavers International is a registered UK charity (number 207544 England & Wales, Scotland SC038110) that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people who are blind and visually impaired.
About Seeing Is Believing
Seeing is Believing is a global initiative to help tackle avoidable blindness. SiB is a partnership between Standard Chartered Bank and the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). IAPB is the leading umbrella organisation for NGOs working in the field of eye care. Together with the World Health Organisation, it launched the 'Vision 2020 – The Right to Sight', the global campaign to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020. Every Rupee that is donated to Seeing is Believing will be matched by Standard Chartered Bank, doubling the impact of any donation.
About blindness in India
India has 18% of the world's reported 161 million blind and severely visually impaired people. Sightsavers in India works with 90 local partners across 18 states in alignment with the Government of India's national blindness prevention plan and global movements such as VISION 2020: The Right to Sight and the Global Campaign for Education to address this mammoth problem.
About blindness globally
According to WHO estimates, a person goes blind every five seconds; a child goes blind every minute; 50% of children in the developing world will die within two years of becoming blind. Without effective, major intervention, the number of blind people worldwide is projected to increase to 76 million by 2020.
Yet 75% of blindness is avoidable given the right treatment, which means that over 33 million people around the world are blind as a result of conditions that are preventable or treatable. And a total of 314 million suffer from some serious form of visual impairment.