Worst floods in a century have left people vulnerable, without access to eye care
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Little Flower Hospital’s medical camps are overflowing with people in need of urgent care.
Little Flower Hospital’s medical camps are overflowing with people in need of urgent care. Photo courtesy of Little Flower Hospital.

Lives lost. Hospitals and homes flooded. Eyeglasses washed away in the deluge. An outbreak of waterborne infections. The situation in Kerala state, India is devastating, and the impact on people’s health – including their eye health – is alarming. Our team in India has jumped into action, organizing medical relief camps in collaboration with Little Flower Hospital, our longstanding partner in Kerala.

We’ve been working in Kerala since 1973, as part of our long-term development strategy to eliminate avoidable blindness in India.” While we’re not a disaster relief organization, Little Flower Hospital came to us, explaining the severity of the situation and asking us for help. We already have the processes and resources in place to provide immediate eye care to those in need, and we’re eager to help.

Hit by monsoon rains and torrential downpours, Kerala received over 222 cm of rainfall (40 per cent more than average) between June and August this year. Roads have been washed out and 80 per cent of the state was without electricity for almost a week. Homes were destroyed, leaving millions of people displaced and without any of their possessions, including their eyeglasses.

With the spread of waterborne bacteria, there is already a reported rise in eye infections – but people are unable to access eye care services for medicine or treatment. To make matters worse, there is a shortage of ophthalmic personnel and people are also unable to access their money to pay for services.

“We’re grateful to our donors who have given generously to our Greatest Needs Fund in the past, trusting us to put their donations to good use where it’s most needed in our work,” says Aly Bandali, our President & CEO. “This gives us the flexibility to be able to respond to situations like this.”

Little Flower Hospital has started conducting medical camps in relief camp sites, however, their resources are extremely limited, and thousands of people in need of medical assistance are being left out. Our team in India already has a plan in place to reach those who are unable to access, or afford, eye care services right now.

Rescuers evacuate people from a flooded area to a safer place in Aluva in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 18, 2018 (Photo by REUTERS taken from Indian Express).
Rescuers evacuate people from a flooded area to a safer place in Aluva in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 18, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V (Photo taken from Indian Express)

“We’ve started mapping out the areas where the need is greatest and will soon be mobilizing community outreach teams,” says Dr. Santosh Moses, our Regional Manager in South Asia. “At the health camps, we’ll screen people for eye problems and provide free eye care treatment for those in need. We’ll provide antibiotics to treat infection, new prescription eyeglasses, surgical treatment and other eye services as needed.”

Our organization has been working with Little Flower Hospital since 1975. As an international development organization, we’ve supported the establishment of the hospital’s eye department, enabling Little Flower Hospital to perform the first corneal transplantations in India. In addition, we’ve worked with eight other local eye hospitals in the past, at one point covering 10 out of the 14 districts in the state.

While we aim to integrate eye care services into the country’s existing infrastructure and ultimately help partner hospitals become self-sustaining, we’re also able to utilize its existing partnerships to react quickly to events such as the Kerala floods.

Your support means so much to so many! To help us to continue our sight-saving work in Africa and South Asia, you can donate $5 by texting “EYESIGHT” to 45678 or by going to our donation page.