Often, the same terms arise while discussing global poverty and conflict—hunger, disease, clean water, shelter and others. This is to be expected, as poverty everywhere entails a lack of accessibility to the same basic resources necessary for survival. However, survival and health also require many other physical and mental needs that are frequently overlooked, ranging from the rudimentary, such as affection, to the complex, such as medical care and vaccination distribution. The fact that you are able to read these words means you possess a physical trait that thousands unfortunately lack: eyesight.

With the lack of latrines, sufficient nourishment and even clean water, it is understandable that people overlook blindness and vision problems in the fight against international poverty; they are seemingly less exigent problems than a lack of food and protection. However, Combat Blindness International works to restore eyesight and optical health to those in need across four continents.

One man’s “vision” has and continues to permanently touch lives worldwide through various means and methods.

Combat Blindness International was founded in 1984 by Dr. Suresh Chandra, a Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Chandra is also a council member of Vision 2020: The Right to Sight, a collaborative global effort by the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. He was also the recipient of the American Academy of Ophthalmology Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award in 1996. Needless to say, Dr. Chandra is a learned expert in humanitarian ophthalmology efforts.

The initiative began with eye camps at King George’s Medical College in Uttar Pradesh, India. Medical personnel, on a volunteer basis, provided eye care and cataract surgery to about 1,600 patients, and from that point on the group surged in number and influence.

From its inception in 1984, Combat Blindness International has assisted in care at the Sitapur Eye Hospital in Uttar Pradesh and Aravind Eye Hospital in Tamil Nadu, India. It also helped to create Aurolab at the same hospital, where workers produced quality lenses which were sold to nonprofit groups that dispersed them throughout 120 developing countries. Thus, CBI’s breadth of influence multiplied.

Since then, CBI has established the Gujarat Project with the Blind Relief and Health Association and begun World Sight Day, a day of awareness for those living in poverty and suffering from vision impairment worldwide. CBI also began three local eye care projects in Africa, which were followed by similar efforts in India and Paraguay.

For thirty years, CBI has provided eye care and sight restoration free of charge to over 11,000 people in need. The organization has been changing the world’s vision, one set of eyes at a time.

Arielle Swett

Sources: InterAction, Combat Blindness International
Photo: Wired