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Times Of India
08 january 2013
Pune, India.

New Target To Secure 1,700 Corneas Through Donations

Pune is inching forward in its contribution to eye donation across the state. As against the set target of collecting 1,250 corneas every year which it had been fulfilling till 2011–12, the district has now geared up to achieve the new target of securing 1,700 corneas through eye donation, this year onwards.

"This year we have to meet a target of 1,714 corneas between April 2012 and March 2013. We have collected 1,270 corneas by the end of November," said D B Kemkar, district ophthalmic surgeon and district programme manager of the District Blindness Control Society (DBCS).

The eye donation movement in Pune has been gaining momentum. The DBCS collected a total of 1,636 corneas in 2010–11. During 2009–10 and 2008–2009, DBCS had collected 1,267 and 1,066 corneas respectively. "In 2011–12, against a target of collecting 1,250 corneas we collected 1,726," Kemkar said.

The DBCS plays an important role in the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), an ambitious scheme of the ministry of health and family welfare. Among other things, the DBCS keeps a tab on recognised NGOs involved in blindness control activities, including eye donations, and reports them to the state and the Union government authorities by March end.

Kemkar said more eye donations were happening because of increasing awareness and efforts by local eye banks involving H V Desai hospital, Ruby Hall Clinic, National Institute of Ophthalmology, Jankalyan, and Venu Madhav eye bank at Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital among others.

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Every month around 500–600 eyeballs are collected from 178 eye banks across the state. Of these, Mumbai contributes the largest share, followed by Pune, Nagpur and Solapur. However, the present level of eyeball collection in the state was inadequate, considering the Maharashtra’s annual requirement of 10,000 eyeballs per year, for meeting the objective of blindness control under the NPCB.

"Inhibition and traditional beliefs on eye donation are the main obstacles. After a person’s death, when the relatives are grieving, it is difficult to motivate and convince them to donate the eyes," said civil surgeon Vinayak More.

As per statistics, one out of every 150 people in India is affected by corneal blindness. Children and the poor are the most affected. Of the one million deaths in the country last year, a mere 42,000 had opted for eye donations. "There is a huge gap between the number of people who need corneal transplants and the number of donors. People should realise the importance of eye donation. After the death of an individual his eyes go waste as the individual is either burned or buried," said eye surgeon Aditya Kelkar of National Institute of Ophthalmology.

Eye banking takes root in rural areas

Eye banking is gaining popularity in the state’s interiors. In 2011–12, the H V Desai Eye Hospital (HVDEH) here collected 175 corneas from places like Shirur, Baramati, Nandurabar and Udgir.

Rural eye banking offers to bridge the gap between the demand for corneas and the number of donors to a certain extent, say experts.

"Of the 175 corneas collected from rural areas, 95 were collected in 2012 and 80 in 2011," said senior eye surgeon Col Madan Deshpande. He is also the director of HVDEH and president of Vision 2020: Right to Sight India – a conglomeration of national and international NGOs, the World Health Organisation and the Union government – to reduce avoidable blindness by 2020.

"In 2012, we collected 744 corneas. Of these, 95 were from rural parts; 43 were collected through doctors trained in places like Nandurbar and Udgir and 52 corneas were collected by conducting eye donation camps at Nasrapur, Talegaon Dabhade, Saswad, Khed, Shivapur and Shikrapur villages," Deshpande said.

The hospital started collecting corneas through its eye collection centres at villages in Pune and Nandurbar districts from early 2011.

"Initially, we approached social groups and ‘mandals’ to create awareness about eye donation. We recruited a fleet of counsellors, and trained technicians and doctors in eye retrieval. We also roped in medical officers at the primary health centres and rural hospitals to inform us of deaths in the area, so that our counsellors could approach relatives in time and convince them for eye donation," he said.

Deshpande added, "We offer a certificate of appreciation to the donor’s family and try to publicise their noble deed in local newspapers. Gradually, the movement has started gaining momentum in villages of Shirur, Baramati, Nandurabar and Udgir," Deshpande said.

State health officials overseeing the work of blindness control said that over 90% of corneas collected comes from cities. "The share of villages is minuscule. There are various reasons. The level of superstition is very high in villages. Demystifying them is a tough task. However, the government has initiated various awareness programmes in villages to promote eye donation," a health official said.

The country needs three lakh corneas every year. However, only 38,000 corneas are collected in a year.

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