The Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu today called for dispelling myths and false beliefs on eye donation and suggested launching of massive multimedia campaigns in local languages in every State by involving celebrities and icons to create awareness among the people.
Speaking at 36th National Eye Donation Fortnight celebrations, he referred to the huge gap between demand of donor cornea tissues and supply. “It is unfortunate that so many people are suffering from corneal blindness because of lack of donor cornea tissues for transplant. The need of the hour is to increase awareness among people about the importance of eye donation”, he added.
Observing that many people are not coming forward to donate the eyes of their deceased family members due to myths and false beliefs, Shri Naidu said that people should be made aware that the noble act of donating their eyes would enable people with corneal blindness to see the beautiful world by restoring their vision. “If all of us make a pledge to donate our eyes, we can treat the entire backlog of cases waiting for corneal transplant. Therefore, this is an achievable goal and we should strive untiringly to accomplish it”, he added.
The Vice President stressed the need for a structured eye-banking system to bridge the gap between demand for donor tissues and supply by promoting awareness, facilitating generation of donor tissues and ensuring their equitable distribution.
Reiterating that ‘Share and care’ is at the core of Indian philosophy, he said “ours is a culture where kings and sages like Shibi and Dadhichi had donated their bodies. These examples are built around the core values, ideals and Samskaras of our society”.He called for redefining those values and narratives in a modern context to inspire people and promote organ donation.
“By donating an organ one not only helps a person to lead a more fulfilling life, but sets an example for others to work towards the larger good of society”, he added.
Pointing out that the restrictions placed on corneal retrieval due to the pandemic have led to a dearth of tissues required for corneal transplantation and increased the backlog, Shri Naidu said that to overcome the crisis in tissue availability, innovative measures such as long-term preservation of tissues and alternative surgical procedures which do not require donor tissue have to be considered. “As our understanding of COVID-19 improves, we may need to modify the guidelines regarding eye-banking and tissue retrieval”, he added.
Calling for increasing eye care facilities to treat cataract, glaucoma and other ophthalmological problems, the Vice President said there was an urgent need to devise a multi-pronged strategy for strengthening preventive and curative eye care across the country. It was important to ensure that these services are available in rural areas, particularly the remote parts of the country. The Panchayati Raj Institutions, urban local bodies and NGOs must be involved in augmenting the efforts of the Government to provide comprehensive eye care services to people in the rural areas.
Observing that large segments of the rural population are deprived of quality eye care, he said many people living in rural areas cannot afford the high cost of treatment at private hospitals. “Therefore, we must equip our public sector eye care hospitals with latest technologies to provide quality treatment. Private eye hospitals must also open satellite centres in rural areas and deliver the benefits of modern eye care to rural populations at affordable costs.”
Shri Naidu also highlighted the issue of excessive exposure of children to gadgets and the impact on their eyes. He said that there is a pressing need to regulate children’s usage of digital devices. He appealed to parents and teachers to take responsibility to wean away children from excessive use of devices and falling into ‘technology addiction’.
The Vice President lauded the team at the national eye bank for empowering thousands of people affected with corneal blindness with the gift of vision, over the last five decades.
Prof. Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS, New Delhi, Prof. Jeewan S Titiyal, Chief, RP Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS, New Delhi, Prof. Radhika Tandon, Co-chairperson, National Eye Bank, Prof. Namrata Sharma, Officer In-charge, National Eye Bank, Prof. M. Vanathi, Officer In-charge, National Eye Bank, Dr. Manpreet Kaur, Asst. Professor, faculty and staff of AIIMS along with donor families and representatives from Non-Governmental Organizations & Eye Banks attended the event.