It has been found that majority of the elderly people in rural areas in Sri Lanka suffer from either blindness or low vision due to cataracts in their eyes. Typically they are from the lower income groups and they cannot afford a cataract surgery, which costs over LKR 25,000. Karuna Trust has joined hands with Vision 2020 Sri Lanka, a collaborative national level program launched by Ministry of Health and College of Ophthalmologist, to help perform cataract surgeries for underprivileged people in the rural areas.
It is Estimated that over 100,000 elders in Sri Lanka are blind and over 500,000 are either partially blind or suffering from low vision due to cataracts in their eyes. If preventive care is not provided, people with low vision will become blind in near future. This will be a serious problem for the elders in Sri Lanka in future. By 2041 the elderly population in Sri Lanka will be 25% of the entire population. 80% of the people, who are above the age of 70, will get cataracts in their eyes. According to estimates, 240,000 cataract surgeries may have to be performed annually to prevent the blindness of the elders. However, due to various limitations Sri Lanka can only perform around 100,000 cataract surgeries per year. This means every year around 140,000 people will not get treatment. In five years, around 500,000 people will be treated while around 700,000 people will be at risk of blindness.
There are only 45 eye surgeons, attached to the Government Hospitals in Sri Lanka, who perform cataract surgeries. During the last nine years only nine eye surgeons have joined the Government service. That is only one eye surgeon per year! Many believe this is grossly inadequate for a country like Sri Lanka.
A patient has to spend LKR 25,000.00 to 30,000.00 for a cataract surgery even at a Government Hospital. The poor patients who are unable to afford this will suffer from blindness in their old age. However, using the lenses provided by the Department of Health, Social Services Department and Vision 2020 Secretariat, a cataract surgery costs only LKR 5,500 including the medicine. Unfortunately, It has been reported that some eye surgeons reject these lenses and prescribe very expensive lenses. Given that these lenses are approved by the governing body – The College of Ophthalmologists of Sri Lanka – many are puzzled by the motive of such doctors.
Successful completion of a cataract surgery camp usually involves 4 visits to the particular area. We first identify a village where we intend to select the patients from. During the first visit, we meet with the local representatives and organize an eye camp which will be open to everybody from that area, who have some kind of visual impairment. During the second visit, doctors from the Department of Health would perform a preliminary screening, based on which we select the patients who need the cataract surgery the most. After selecting the patients, we organize surgeries at the nearest Government Hospital where the facilities are available. Then on the selected day we take the doctors and experienced nurses from Colombo to perform the surgeries. After about a week from the surgeries, we make another visit with a doctor to perform the after surgery inspections.
With the help of Vision 2020 Sri Lanka secretariat we have worked hard especially in rural areas to perform cataract surgeries for deserving patients who can’t afford the cost.
During the last 12 months ending in April 2016, we have held 21 screening camps and have given sight to 1236 patients. Among them there were 28 completely blind patients. These patients were from Thissamaharamaya, Matara, Kalutara, Ratnapura, Veyangoda, Galgamuwa, Piliyandala, Kebithigollewa, Padaviya, Medawachchiya and Vavuniya. We, Karuna Trust would like to express our deep gratitude to the eye surgeons who volunteered for the eye camps and the cataract surgeries.
This is an ongoing project and we hope to complete as much surgeries as possible according to the funds that we receive from kind donors across the world. So far, we have received over LKR 3 million for this worthy cause from Sri Lankans living abroad and from the donors in Sri Lanka. 100% of the donations are spent towards the cataract surgeries while Karuna Trust bears all overhead costs associated with this program such as transportation for patients and doctors, food & lodging and a 10% administrative cost to Vision 2020 Secretariat.
Giving sight to a blind or low vision person is a great merit and we hope that many kind-hearted donors will join us to support this worthy project.
About Vision 2020
Vision 2020 Sri Lanka is the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Avoidable Blindness in Sri Lanka, headed by Dr Palitha Mahipala currently the Additional Secretary of the Health Ministry. This is a collaborative programme of the Ministry and the College of Ophthalmologists of Sri Lanka. Project Coordinator at Vision 2020:
Dr Asela Abeydeera,
Vision 2020 Secretariat,
Ministry of Healthcare & Nutrition,
385, Deans Road, Colombo 10
Phone/Fax – 0112693744