The eye donation awareness campaign activities which were organised by ENTOD Pharmaceuticals across different parts of the countryas part of the National Eye Donation Fortnight ended on a high noteemphasising the importance of eye donation to reduce the burden of corneal blindness in India. The #pledgemyeyes initiative reached out to over 30 million people across the country and the website (https://www.pledgemyeyes.org/) registered 3X more pledges compared to the present numbers. There were widespread social awareness programs and activities conducted across the country to highlight the significance of eye donation and its usefulness to visually impaired people.
Presently, around 1.1 million people are corneal blind in India and the current annual transplant number in the country is 25,000- 30,000. Each year, around 75,000 people with corneal blindness in the country are missing out on the opportunity to regain vision. The reason is a shortage of donated corneas. The situation was further worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic which led to a drastic drop in the number of corneas collected. During the peak of the pandemic from March 2020 to April 2021 only 18,358 corneas were collected across the country.
“Eye donation across the country was severely impacted by the pandemic in 2020 as eye banking activities were shut down from March to May 2020. This created a huge gap in the collection of corneas from deceased donors which led to an exponential rise in the additional burden of corneal blind people. As per estimates, almost 11 lakh corneal blind people in India are awaiting transplants. With this campaign, our aim was to raise awareness around eye donation and increase the willingness of people to donate eyes. Awareness about eye donation is important in India as there are myths and misconceptions surrounding eye donation that stop people from pledging to donate their eyes. These myths need to be dispelled first so that people come forward without any hesitation to donate their eyes after death and we can treat the entire backlog of cases waiting for corneal transplant” said Mr Nikkhil K Masurkar, CEO of ENTOD Pharmaceuticals.
Though it was a nationwide campaign, cities with low numbers of eye donations and eye bank centres were especially targeted which included Patna, Ranchi, Lucknow, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, and Chandigarh, to bring changes at the grassroots level. Apart from eye donation awareness camps and free eye check-up camps, eye donation awareness rallies were also conducted. Social media was also used as part of the initiative to further spread awareness of eye donation importance. More than 100 social media influencers from different parts of India got associated in the campaign to spread awareness about eye donation through stories, posts and live sessions. In fact, the campaign garnered so much popularity and attention that it was the 3rd most trending topic on twitter.
“Almost 60 per cent of people are affected by corneal blindness. Therefore, it is important to donate eyes as they can be of help to at least 2 people. As a doctor, I am very proud to be a part of this initiative encouraging mass public awareness about eye donation and motivating citizens to pledge their eyes after death. We still have to reach many more people and we have a long road ahead of us. Gifting eyes is gifting life and happiness. If all of us make a pledge to donate our eyes, we can make a big difference and treat the entire backlog of cases waiting for a corneal transplant. Therefore, this is an achievable goal and we should strive untiringly to accomplish it” said Dr. Harshul Tak, Director at Rawat Eye & Phaco Surgery Centre, Jaipur.