Sightsavers, with the support of Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), has launched an Urban Eye Health Programme called Amrita Drishti in Kanpur and Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh. The intervention primarily focuses on increasing uptake of eye-health services through vision centres in slum communities, provisioning of eye-health services as part of health systems, and developing a favourable policy environment through engagement of urban local bodies. SCB’s participation is under its Seeing is Believing global initiative to tackle avoidable blindness and visual impairment.

Kanpur and Prayagraj are the largest cities covered under the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) by the Government of Uttar Pradesh and are inhabited by many slum dwellers. Sightsavers has been working in these two cities and established a network of partner hospitals and organisations in the area of eye health. The organisation has collaborated with SCB to make eye-care services available for people from the lowest economic strata. A total of 10 vision centres were inaugurated across these two cities in the first week of October.

The overall goal of this project is to contribute to the reduction of avoidable blindness in the urban slums of these two cities in Uttar Pradesh. It will target a population of 637,000 people living in the urban slums of Kanpur and 680,000 people in the urban slums of Prayagraj. The project will work within WHO’s health systems framework including human resource development, infrastructure with technological development, health financing, medicines, consumables, health information systems and service delivery. The intervention will address the issues of cataract, refractive error and diabetic retinopathy. 

In response to CB’s questions, RN Mohanty, CEO, Sightsavers India, informs that the services in the vision centres are provided at a small subsidised cost. Patients receive free services at the camps organised in the vicinity of the vision centres. The project is planned in a way that it can become self-sustaining after three years of support. There are plans to increase eye-care services and expand the geographical coverage in the cities after a few years. 

Mohanty clarifies that while the bank’s support is primarily related to funding, the project will provide opportunities for SCB staff to engage in activities related to the cause. For instance, they can participate in community eye screening and surgical support services in the project area.