Standard Chartered Bank and Sightsavers India: Making Eye Health Available In and Around National Parks of India

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Delhi: Standard Chartered Bank has been collaborating with Sightsavers India for over two decades under its ‘Seeing is Believing’ initiative to strengthen eye services in remote regions and underserved communities. On World Sight Day 2023, Aranya Jyoti — an initiative to explore community-based eye health intervention in and around selected National Parks of India to primarily serve the tribal population will be launched by Sightsavers India with the support of Standard Chartered Bank. 

The programme will address the specific eye care needs of the tribal population by intervening in forest areas of Bandhavgarh National Park. It will assess the current situation of the eye health systems, as well as the community practices regarding accessing eye care services, within both the peripheral and main areas of three national parks—Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, Kaziranga National Park in Assam and Sariska National Park in Rajasthan.

Cataracts and uncorrected refractive errors are the leading causes of visual impairment in most parts of India. According to the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India Survey on Blindness (2006-2007) these two causes constitute about 81 per cent of blindness in the age group 50 years and above.  Exacerbating the situation is that the availability of eye healthcare providers is sub-optimal. The situation in remote and tribal areas is starker with a severe shortage of the health workforce as healthcare providers are increasingly confined to urban areas and large cities in India.

Karuna Bhatia, Head of Sustainability, India, Standard Chartered Bank India & Global Business Services (GBS) said, “Currently, we see a requirement for a solid and robust eye health system to serve the community’s eye health needs in these identified areas. This will also help reduce instances of visual impairment in a time-bound manner. The Aranya Jyoti initiative is a step in the right direction which aligns with the Bank’s ethos of serving the communities in places where it operates.”

The tribal population is one of India’s most vulnerable and deprived communities. Most of the tribal belts of different states in India are inaccessible majorly due to the rugged terrain and no transportation and hence are likely to have a considerable backlog of preventable/curable visual impairment.

RN Mohanty, CEO, Sightsavers India said, “Our key objective is to pilot an innovative model for the provision of eye care services among the communities living in and periphery villages of National Park(s). The selected national parks are the largest in the states and have a high concentration of tribal population in the core and buffer zone. Sightsavers India is happy to have the support of Standard Chartered Bank in yet again making eye healthcare accessible to communities where there is a need.”

Standard Chartered Bank under its ‘Seeing is Believing’ initiative has collaborated with Sightsavers India for eye health programmes across the country in the last two decades. The ‘Seeing is Believing’ initiative is a global intervention aimed at tackling avoidable blindness in areas of high need. Standard Chartered Bank, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and leading eye care NGOs are delivering these projects on the ground.

Sightsavers India with the support of Standard Chartered Bank has been able to strengthen eye care services in the Sundarbans region and Kolkata urban slums of West Bengal State in Eastern India. Kolkata Urban Comprehensive Eye Care Project (KUCECP), Sundarbans Eye Health Service Strengthening Project, and Mumbai and Uttar Pradesh Urban Eye Health Programmes were some of the projects for which Standard Chartered Bank collaborated with Sightsavers India. Currently, the Rural Eye Health Programme is being supported by Standard Chartered in Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and parts of Sundarbans in West Bengal. In Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Urban Eye Health Programmes are operational.