Solar-powered eye care centres open to treat one million people in India

Five of the nine new Green Vision Centres, designed to treat avoidable blindness, are run by women

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Nine solar-powered eye care centres have opened in West Bengal, India, with the aim of treating one million people, eye care charity Orbis has revealed.

Five of the nine Green Vision Centres, which will bring primary eye care to people with avoidable blindness, are run by women.

The news was released to celebrate Earth Day (22 April).

The environmentally-friendly centres are run using solar power, in an area that is frequently affected by power cuts.

The Green Vision Centres have been opened by international charity, Orbis, and their local partner in West Bengal, Susrut Eye Foundation and Research Centre.

The centres will focus on treating children and babies with sight loss. Children will be provided with free access to eye screenings, as well as glasses and other eye care services where needed.

Awareness of eye care in local communities will also be created, through school visits and door-to-door screenings. Outreach will see staff using electric scooters.

When identified, complex cases will be treated at the Green Vision Centres’ partner hospitals.

The nine new centres take the number that Orbis has opened across India to 22.

Dr Rishi Raj Borah, country director for Orbis India, emphasised the importance of focusing on the country when it comes to eye care.

“More children are blind in India than in any other country, and in over half of cases, sight could be restored with early intervention and treatment,” he said.

“Ensuring that families can access their children’s care close to home is critical to overcoming this challenge. That's why I'm so proud of the Green Vision Centres in operation today – with all the potential they represent for children, for rural communities and for our planet.”

Five Green Vision Centres have opened in the Murshidabad district, with support from the United States Agency for International Development, and four have opened in the Howrah and North and South 24 Parganas districts, with support from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind.

Orbis has emphasised the importance of women running the five Murshidabad centres, identifying that their existence works to empower women through job creation and increased financial independence. 15 vision technicians have already been trained and employed to work at the centres.

Having women in these positions also encourages women in rural communities to seek eye care for themselves and their children, Orbis said.