Fighting blindness in India | Orbis

Fighting blindness in India

Orbis began saving sight in India in 1988 and set up our in-country office in Delhi in 2000. Orbis India's main focus areas are children's eye care, primary eye care, Human Resources for Eye Health, and enabling quality eye health. 270,000 children are living with blindness in India, with more than 50% of these cases being avoidable.

India is home to more than 20% of the world's blind population and the largest number of blind children in any one country. The divide between the rich and poor continues to increase, leaving a significant portion of the population without access to basic healthcare services – most of whom live either in rural areas or in urban slums.

More than 1.61 million children have uncorrected refractive errors, suffering not only vision impairment but critical setbacks to their development. Uncorrected refractive error can often be easily rectified with a simple intervention like a pair of eyeglasses, which is why pediatric eye care remains one of our priorities.

There are only 13 ophthalmologists per million people in India, with fewer than 50% doing surgeries.

REACH for the Stars

The Refractive Error Among Children (REACH) project aims to reduce visual impairment due to uncorrected refractive error among school-going children and provide a sustainable and scalable solution to a shortage of care.

Orbis, along with our partners, develops teams of ophthalmic personnel and supports them with digital and clinical equipment to perform screenings in schools, and provide eyeglasses, as well as referrals for children who require further examination and treatment.

More than five million children from 21,000 schools have undergone screening as part of the REACH program in India, with 78% of those living in rural locations.

Read more about the design and delivery of our REACH program in India in this paper published in Taylor & Francis online.

This model has also been rolled out successfully in Bangladesh, Ghana, and Nepal.

Success in India

In 2002, we launched the India Childhood Blindness Initiative to help ensure India’s children have access to quality eye care for generations to come. To date, 33 Children’s Eye Centers have been developed across 17 states.

This is the largest network of Children’s Eye Centers in the world. As part of this, we contributed to the development of pediatric ophthalmology as a distinct sub-specialty in the Indian ophthalmology landscape. Our work has also been instrumental in creating and promoting the idea of a pediatric ophthalmology team that goes beyond the boundaries of the Children’s Eye Centers to work closely with a network of community organizations and volunteers.

Small children in a rural Indian village stand by an eye test stuck onto a post as part of the India Childhood Blindness Initiative (IBCI)

Orbis helped create the largest network of Children's Eye Centers in the world

The India Childhood Blindness Initiative and Children's Eye Centers are reaching over a million children each year. Thanks to the support of our local partners, Orbis has become a trusted name among the ophthalmic community, with plans to expand the scope of our work over the coming years.

Building on our work in quality assurance at eye hospitals, we developed a Quality Resource Center, which is now supporting other eye care facilities across India, and internationally in Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Impact In 2022

Key Achievements Since 2000

  • Hosted 18 Flying Eye Hospital visits and one virtual Flying Eye Hospital visit
  • Developed a comprehensive network of 34 Children's Eye Centers across 17 states (one eye care center for every 20 million children as compared to one eye care center for every 100 million children in 2000)
  • Conducted more than 18.5 million pediatric eye screenings
  • Provided 1.6 million children with medical and optical treatment
  • Performed 103,000 surgeries on children
  • Organized 192,000 ophthalmic trainings for eye care-workers in India
  • Equipped three tertiary-level pediatric facilities to provide pediatric ophthalmology training
  • Supported the establishment of 104 vision centers (of which 22 are Green Vision Centers) to increase access to eye care in hard-to-reach communities
  • Set up a Quality Resource Center at Dr. Shroff's Charity Eye Hospital to improve the quality of eye hospitals nationally and internationally
  • Conducted 92 training projects in local hospitals
  • Strengthened and renovated two Digital Training Hubs for simulation training
  • Developed the REACH program for school screenings to ensure a continuous follow-up after screening

Green Vision Centres

Orbis's 2022-2026 Global Strategic Plan focuses on increasing equitable access to eye health services and improving the quality of life of families in the communities we work with. With this in mind, Orbis India is helping create 100 Green Vision Centers by 2025.

Green Vision Centers are an innovative approach to pediatric eye care that improves the quality and accessibility of eye health services while focusing on sustainability. Centers run on solar power which not only reduces carbon impact but also solves challenges caused by frequent power outages. This means patients are ensured uninterrupted, quality eye care, regardless of access to electricity.

Children receive free access to eye screenings, glasses, and other eye care services at the Green Vision Centers, which also provide primary eye care services to the community. Routine eye screenings are critical in detecting diseases early when they are most likely to be treatable. For complex cases which require advanced care, each center is connected with a hospital for referrals. Staff also conduct screenings and provide glasses to children in schools and daycare centers located in the communities surrounding the centers.

What We're Doing Next

Thanks to Orbis donors and the support of our local partners we have a number of key ongoing projects, that will help provide access to quality eye care for millions of people.

  • Comprehensive childhood blindness projects - Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital and Sitapur Eye Hospital
  • Green Vision Center: Primary eye care services for women and children in West Bengal
  • 100 Green Vision Centers by 2025
  • Access to pediatric eye care services in Bihar
  • Refractive Error Among Children (REACH) projects with four partners
  • Regional training centers on patient communication
  • Digital Training Hubs: Medical education in response to COVID-19
  • Validity and effectiveness of a virtual reality simulator for manual small incision cataract surgery

Orbis India in the News


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Our Partners in India

We'd like to give a special thanks to our amazing sponsors, donors and partners in India.

  • Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital
  • Alakh Nayan Mandir
  • Aravind Eye Care System
  • Bangalore West Lions Super Speciality Eye Hospital
  • C L Gupta Eye Institute
  • Choithram Netralaya
  • Christian Medical College
  • L.V. Prasad Eye Institute
  • Dr. Shroff's Charity Eye Hospital
  • Drashti Netralaya
  • Gandhi Eye Hospital
  • Global Hospital and Research Centre
  • Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust
  • Kalinga Eye Hospital & Research Centre
  • Khairabad Eye Hospital
  • Lions NAB Eye Hospital
  • Little Flower Hospital & Research Centre
  • Lotus Eye Hospital
  • M M Joshi Eye Hospital
  • MGM Eye Institute
  • Netra Niramay Niketan
  • PBMA's HV Desai Eye Hospital
  • Ramakrishna Mission Hospital
  • Regional Institute of Ophthalmology
  • Sadguru Sankalp Netra Chikitsalaya
  • Sagduru Netra Chikitsalaya
  • Sahai Hospital & Research Center
  • Sankara Eye Centre
  • Sankara Nethralaya
  • Siliguri Greater Lions Eye Hospital
  • Sitapur Eye Hospital
  • Sri Ganpati Netralaya
  • Sri Sankaradeva Nethralaya
  • Srikiran Institute of Ophthalmology
  • Suraj Eye Institute
  • Susrut Eye Foundation & Research Centre
  • Dr. R. P. Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences

If you are interested in working with Orbis to help improve the quality of life in communities around the world, please contact us at [email protected].

We are especially looking for program partners in the field of pediatric eye care, trachoma elimination, strengthening human resources for eye health, gender equity, disability inclusion, internally displaced populations, and community-based primary care.

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