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The National Eye Donation Fortnight is observed every year from 25 August to 8 September. The campaign intends to create public awareness about the importance of eye donation and to motivate people to pledge for organ donation.
According to reports, blindness has been defined as being one of the major health problems in developing countries like India  .
India Is Home To The Highest Number Of Blind People
As per recent reports, it is estimated that there are an approximate of 6.8 million people who have vision less than 6/60 in at least one eye due to corneal diseases in India. Out of a global population of 37 million blind people, 15 million belong to India  . And to point out, 75 per cent of these cases are avoidable blindness - shining a light on the importance of the day National Eye Donation Fortnight.
The optometrists and donated eyes for the treatment of corneal blindness are extremely diffused in the country with only 8,000 optometrists in the place of 40,000 optometrists. Apart from that, reports reveal that India needs 2.5 lakh donated eyes every year and are only to able to meet a low number of 25,000 from the 109 eye banks in the country. And only a number of 10,000 corneal transplants are being done every year due to shortage  .
153 million Indians require reading glasses but do not have access. The high number of blind people in the country can be aligned to the limited number of just 20 optometry schools which produce just 1,000 optometrists annually, with 17 million people being added to the population  .
Out of the 15 million, three million are children who suffer from blindness due to corneal disorders.
Organ Donation In India
Registering yourself as an organ donor and deciding to help someone after your death is a great deed. An organ donor helps people regain their certain functions, such as vision. By donating one's eyes posthumously, a corneal blind person regains their ability to see through a surgical procedure known as corneal transplantation, whereby the damaged cornea is replaced by a healthy cornea from the eye donor  .
The Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 was established by the Indian government to cause a positive change in the aspects of organ donation and transplantation in India . Although various states had taken up and embraced the initiative, there was no follow-ups or works done towards improving the effectiveness and reach of the program. States like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh put in significant effort, with Tamil Nadu having several 302 donations and Andhra Pradesh having some 150  .
The other states that followed were Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Kerala.
50% Of Donated Eyes Are Going To Waste
With the awareness and importance of eye donation spreading through the state, one of the major issues faced by the hospitals is saving the donated eyes from going to waste. As per a report, 52,000 eye donations were done in India from a period from April 2018 to March 2019. However, the number of corneal transplant in the country was only 28,000  .
Almost 50 per cent of the corneas collected through eye donations drives were not utilised but wasted. And this was not the condition in a single state but throughout the country. The donated cornea can be preserved for six to 14 days and after the 14 days, it is discarded as waste as it no longer can be used  .
This is due to the lack of well-equipped eye banks in the country. India as a country has very limited well-equipped eye banks as well as a limited number of eye surgeons.
Why People Hesitate To Donate Eyes
Even in the twenty-first century and even with the advent of various developments, people are still sceptical about it due to the elevated numbers of misconceptions. Aspects such as lack of awareness, myths related to eye donation, cultural stigma, lack of motivation and traditional beliefs pose as challenges  .
A cornea transplant is usually performed within 4 days after donation, depending upon the method of cornea preservation and the surgical removal of the eye tissue is performed soon after death; thereby not causing any delay in the funeral arrangements  .
A recent survey that explored the misconceptions regarding eye donation pointed out that 28 per cent of a total of 641 urban respondents believed that organ donors will not receive any life-saving treatment while 18 per cent believed that their body will be mutilated  .
Various awareness programs and measures have been adopted by the Indian government and various hospitals to improve the current status of eye donation in the country  . In comparison to the year 2003, there have been significant improvements in the number of donors. However, much better hospital equipment has to be installed for proper preserving of the donated corneas.
Apart from these, as a citizen of India, you must register as an organ donor . Anyone can become an eye donor (any age group or sex), diabetics, individuals who use spectacles, patients with high blood pressure, asthma patients and those without communicable diseases can donate eyes. Go ahead, it is your duty as a human being. Get registered as an organ donor!
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