India is committed to reducing the burden of blindness by adopting the strategies advocated by Vision 2020 -“THE RIGHT TO SIGHT” which seeks to ensure the best possible vision for all people following an integrated approach. Currently, LEPRA is a member of VISION 2020 – a national forum in India committed to the prevention of blindness and an active partner in the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) for the prevention of blindness in Western Odisha.
The problem of eye involvement as a cause of disability in leprosy is well recognised. The estimates from existing surveys reveal that nearly one-quarter and one-half a million leprosy or ex-leprosy patients could be blind (vision less than 6/60). The visual disability in these patients is compounded with other disabilities, particularly sensory impairment and deformity.
The primary eye-care services extended by LEPRA are a part of disability care to leprosy-affected persons. While closely interacting with the communities, LEPRA’s field staff advised people severely affected by leprosy and suffering from disfigurement and disabilities, to get cataract and other eye problems treated by specialists. However, it was observed that the eye specialists were averse to attending to people affected by leprosy and hence, people with lagophthalmos (inability to close the eyelids completely) damaged their eyes resulting in loss of vision.
LEPRA initiated eye care activities in Telangana and Odisha as one of the disability management components in all its leprosy projects and gradually extended the same to general population collaborating with the government in different operational areas.