Capital: Delhi

Official languages: Hindi, English

Population: 1.4 billion 

General country overview: India, officially the Republic of India, is a South Asian country. It is the second most populous country in the world (after China), and the seventh largest by land area. India is made up of twenty-nine states and eight union territories.

Relevant eye health statistics: With one of the largest populations living below the poverty line in the world, approximately 15 million individuals in India are blind, but 90 percent don’t have to be. 65 percent of eye-care surgeries are from the private/voluntary sector, while only 35 percent are provided by the government sector. In India, 80 percent of ophthalmologists are located in urban areas, but only a quarter of the population resides in an urban area. India has the highest percentage of cataract prevalence and patients in the world. As of 2015, in India the eye surgeon to patient ratio is 1:90,000.

Our Work in India

Since 1963, we’ve been working to prevent blindness and restore sight in India, where nearly 15 million people are blind or visually impaired. We serve communities in 84 districts within 15 states of India, networking with more than 31 partner hospitals and 114 vision centers. We’re working with our partners to address common eye conditions such as cataract, uncorrected refractive error, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Together we’re creating access to affordable eye health care services in some of India’s most remote areas, and empowering communities to take ownership of their eye health care needs.  

Our work in India falls into four thematic programming areas: Health System Strengthening, Vision Centres, Community Eye Health, and Maternal and Child Health.

Health System Strengthening:

We collaborate with hospital and government partners to ensure that hospitals have the resources necessary to provide quality eye health care, and to integrate eye health care into the primary health care system. We build the capacity of hospitals, increase human resources and implement referral linkages within existing systems.

In 2013, the eye health advocacy group Vision 2020 India endorsed our model of Hospital-Based Community Eye Health as a best practice, encouraging all Indian hospitals to adopt our model. In many cases, our partnership with hospitals involves our unique Non-Financial Technical Partnership. In this partnership, our skilled staff offer expert advice, training and evaluation instead of financial assistance. We’ve found that this is the best way to encourage our partners to provide quality, sustainable services.

In 2015, with the help of a generous donor family, we opened the Operation Eyesight Universal Institute for Eye Cancer at the L V Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India.

Vision Centres:

Vision centres are permanent facilities that are established in strategic locations and staffed by trained eye health personnel. They act as a link between communities and our partner hospitals, providing eye exams, dispensing prescription eyeglasses and referring patients to the hospital for treatment as needed. Our vision centres typically become financially self-sustaining within a few months of their establishment. This is done through a cost-recovery model where revenue generated through the sale of eyeglasses and from patients who can afford to pay for services helps offset the cost for those who cannot afford to pay.

Community Eye Health:

Typically, sustainability is looked at from the “supply side” (service provision) and rarely through the “demand side” (generating need in the target area). At Operation Eyesight, we look at sustainability from both of these perspectives. Through our Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Programs, we train and employ women as community health workers (CHWs). The CHWs conduct door-to-door surveys, identify those with eye health issues, and refer patients to a vision centre or appropriate facility for treatment. They also conduct extensive heath education sessions in the community to increase the knowledge and awareness of eye health. All of these strategies help empower communities to take ownership of their eye health, which addresses the “demand side” of sustainability.

Maternal and Child Health:

Through our community outreach programs, we address the root causes of avoidable blindness. Community health workers educate families about nutrition, immunization, newborn care, prenatal and postnatal care and other health issues.

In 2020, we opened a Retinopathy of Prematurity clinic to provide screening and treatment for infants.

Success stories from India:

Our current priorities in India:

  • Establishing vision centres and implementing teleophthalmology solutions to create access to more services at the community level.
  • Maternal and child health. Women and children have been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and our ongoing community outreach education activities will be critical.

Our impact in India over the last five years (2016-2020):

  • 10,030,557 people screened for eye conditions
  • 6,431 ophthalmic personnel, community health workers and volunteers trained
  • 940,801 eye surgeries performed
  • 1,109,496 pairs of prescription eyeglasses dispensed
  • 58 vision centres established
  • 499 villages declared avoidable blindness-free

For more details about our wok in India, download this document.

How can you help

To join us in eliminating avoidable blindness in India, email or contact us here.

Operation Eyesight is a registered charity in India. If you wish to donate directly to the Operation Eyesight India Trust, click here. Contributions to Operation Eyesight India Trust are exempted from tax under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act 1961 of India.