A paediatric specialist optometrist is raising funds to help provide cataract operations to people living in Bihar, India.
For the last three years, Rajula Karania has volunteered for Second Sight, a charity that was established to help restore the vision of adults and children living with reversible blindness in India’s poorest state.
Having visited Bihar on three volunteer projects with the charity to date, Ms Karania’s role is to train locally qualified ophthalmic assistants and paramedics in paediatric optometry. The training offered by Ms Karania covers retinoscopy and cyclopaedic refraction and will enable ophthalmic assistants to effectively screen and treat children’s vision.
While initially the charity’s focus was to screen children for congenital cataracts and provide surgery when appropriate, it quickly identified a need for recognising and treating uncorrected refractive error in children also.
Ms Karania, who works at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said: “While the Government in Bihar trains many optometrists, they are not trained to the same standards as practitioners are in the UK. They are more like ophthalmic assistants. As a result, there is a large knowledge gap when it comes to screening vision and many people don’t have access to the eye care they require.”
By advancing the vision screening skills of practitioners in Bihar, Ms Karania and Second Sight hope to enable the hospitals to become self-sustainable in screening the sight, and treating the needs, of children and adults in local communities.
Ms Karania highlighted to OT that cataract surgery in Bihar costs just £20 for an adult and £35 for a child. Yet the positive impact that surgery can have on a person is priceless. “This fee is a minimal sum to many of us living in the UK, yet in Bihar it can go a long way to curing a person’s sight, and getting them back into education or employment,” she explained.
Second sight is having a positive impact on reversible blindness in Bihar, with over 340,000 blind people have had their sight restored. In 2012, the charity received an award from the British Medical Journal recognising its work in Bihar.
For more information, and to make a donation, visit Ms Karania’s fundraising page.