It has been found that a large number of the elderly people in rural areas in Sri Lanka suffer from either blindness
or low vision due to cataract and other eye ailments. Typically, they are from the lower income groups and
therefore they cannot afford a cataract surgery, which costs over LKR 55,000 at a private hospital. Karuna Trust
has joined hands with The Association of Community Ophthalmologists of Sri Lanka (SLACO), a collaborative
project 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 the near 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 clear the backlog of 1.2 million cataracts over the next five years. However, due to various
limitations, Sri Lanka can only perform around 100,000 cataract surgeries per year in the government and private
sectors. 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 60 eye surgeons, attached to the Government Hospitals in Sri Lanka; of them only around 45 perform cataract surgeries. During the last nine years only nine eye surgeons have joined the Government service indicating an annual increase of one eye surgeon per year! Many believe this number is grossly inadequate for a country like Sri Lanka.
A patient has to spend over LKR 55,000.00 for a cataract surgery done in a private hospital where a poor patient cannot afford this amount. In Government Hospitals, cataract surgeries are done free of charge. But the number of surgeries done in Government Hospitals is just nothing when compared to the requirement. Even to get that
done patients has to be in waiting lists for months and months. The majority of the poor patients who could notget the surgeries done will suffer from blindness in their old age. A good quality low cost lenses can be used to perform cataract surgeries at a cost as low as 7500 LKR inclusive of all the medicine consumables and administrative costs of charitable eye hospitals (e.g. Lions eye hospitals) and transport costs of patients if necessary.
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 SLACO 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 charitable eye hospital where the facilities are available. Then on a selected day the patients will
be transported to the particular hospital for surgeries. After a week from the surgeries we make another visit with
a doctor to perform the after surgery examinations.
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.
With the help of Vision 2020 secretariat of Sri Lanka we have worked hard especially in rural areas to perform cataract surgeries for deserving patients who can’t afford the cost.
During the 12 months ending in April 2016, we held 21 screening camps and 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. From this year 2017 onwards Karuna Trust will work in collaboration with SLACO instead of Vision 2020 with the same objective of restoring sight of those who are blind of cataract.
Karuna Community Eye Clinic
We have started an eye clinic in Maharagama. Here we do only free of charge services for needy eye
patients. The following services are available.
- Vision Screening
- Periodic Preventive Eye Examination
- Glaucoma Test
- Diabetic Eye Examination
- Post Operative Eye Examination
- Spectacle Testing (Refraction Test)
- Minor Eye Operations
- Free Spectacles for Low Income Patients
- Free cataract Operations for Low Income Patients
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.
SLACO is the Association of Community Ophthalmologists of Sri Lanka, a professional association of specialized
doctors in community eye health. SLACO has its objectives to reach the unreached in the grass root levels of
community and to provide eye care. Details of SLACO is as follows
President: Dr Asela Abeydeera,
Association of Community Ophthalmologists of Sri Lanka,
36B, Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha,
Colombo 07, Sri Lanka.
Phone/Fax – 0112610023, 0774748543
Social media fb – slaco sri lanka