CHENNAI: In a country with the largest number of blind children, there is still a large gap between donors and the demands. With initiatives such as awareness cartoons for the public, Rajan Eye Care Hospital is trying to spread the word about eye donation.
“Awareness has improved- from around one pair a month ten years back, we now get an average of one pair a day. But this still does not match the demand,” says Mohan Rajan, chairman and medical director of the hospital. There are around 80 to 90 deaths in a day in the city, says the doctor, of which around 10 to 15 percent donate their eyes. The number of blind people though, is much larger with over 15 million in India, leaving a large gap. Corneal blindness that can be corrected through eye donation is highly prevalent, and around 60 percent of these cases, he adds, are less than 15 years of age.
Tackling child blindness is priority, and to help this cause, the hospital has been conducting various programmes to encourage eye donation. This week has cartoons by cartoonist Ramki at the hospital, speaking of the misconceptions regarding eye donation.
They stress that age and sex do not matter and there is no disfigurement of the body of the donor. The other incentives include eye donation obituaries, and tie-ups with an old age home from where they get around 200 pairs of eyes a year and in return, pay them a sum of Rs 2,000 for each eye for funeral expenses.
“Short sight, long sight, cataract, diabetes- all these do not matter for eye donation,” he says. The only exceptions are persons with HIV, severe jaundice, rabies and serious forms of cancer, but even these donations are not refused as the eyes are used for research purposes.
Another myth, he says, is religion where some people are hesitant. But this is changed, and Dr Rajan points out to this has been positive in case of Buddhism, which has become one of the largest eye donors of the world because the religion advocates donating eyes.
To spread this message to the people visiting the hospital, the cartoons tell them about the different kinds eye diseases. Ramki has frequently done cartoons for public awareness programmes like safety campaigns and police campaigns. “People prefer it to reading long brochures. I use photo cuttings along with sketches for these cartoons,” says Ramki.