The Strengthening Networks for Eye Health and Advocacy (SNEHA) Project

The Community Eye Health Project, in partnership with Sightsavers International

In March 2005 CTRD embarked on a highly successful partnership with Sightsavers International. Due to the success of the Community Eye Health (CEH) Project, the scheme was updated in April 2009 to become the Strengthening Networks for Eye Health and Advocacy (SNEHA) Project. The rapidly advancing nature of this scheme means that it is currently undergoing a further revision, due to be launched in June 2012. At the heart of this project is the firm belief of both partners that no individual in our operational area should be needlessly blind, and that those suffering from irreversible blindness or low vision should have the same rights and access to services as their seeing counterparts. We are currently running the community eye health project in the Gudalur, Udhagamandalam and Coonoor blocks of the Nilgiris District.

Poor eye health is a widespread and significant problem for tens of thousands of individuals across Nilgiris. The prevailing major eye diseases in the area are cataracts, infection of the conjunctiva and disorders of the cornea, often as a result of injury. A staggering 85% of blindness in the local area is caused by cataracts, a clouding of the lens of eye. Blindness due to cataracts is reversible with a quick, routine operation that does not require general anaesthetic and is common-place in the West. Poor eye health has become one of the largest health obstacles in Nilgiris for a number of reasons. Primarily there is a distinct lack of awareness in the need for good eye health and information on good eye care at the community level. Unfortunately due to the lack of understanding surrounding visually impaired people, these individuals often find themselves segregated from "normal" society and are forced to rely heavily on their immediate family.

CTRD and Sightsavers are working to combat these issues by providing comprehensive eye care to local people by providing them with through eye check up's, eye health awareness and educational services and rehabilitation schemes for the visually impaired. Community screening camps are conducted in a range of villages and schools by outreach teams from a number of local eye hospitals. Following these camps individuals are provided with glasses or referred for further treatment, such as corrective eye surgery. Eye Health Awareness schemes have also been implemented across schools and villages of the district, raising the profile of this issue at a community level, encouraging those with visual difficulties to seek the appropriate support. The uptake of government eye health services has increased dramatically as a direct result of this scheme. Consequently the scheme has also worked to increase the use of government hospitals for a range of other health complaints, further improving the health of local communities.

Another aim of these awareness schemes is to increase the integration of those who are visually impaired with the seeing world. In order to do this we have set up a number of Blind Peoples Organisations (BPOs) and Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs). These targeted Self Help Groups are made up of a team of seeing volunteers who help visually impaired individuals integrate into society, by teaching them how to read Braille, navigate around their homes and complete household tasks using touch and ultimately how to navigate their way around their village and local town. These BPOs and DPOs also provide members with a livelihood, teaching them how to weave baskets and other goods which are then sold at local markets. Visually Impaired children have also been integrated into schools, allowing them access to the right to education.

Achievements of the CEH & SNEHA Projects



Screening Programmes

112 schools have been screened, amounting to an enormous 17, 000 children!

1,105 pairs of glasses distributed to school children as a result.

122 Community Eye Screening Camps have been run, assessing 18,500 individuals!

2,019 pairs of glasses distributed to communities as a result


Eye Surgery

3,554 surgeries have been performed, 3,336 of those were for cataracts

4,458 individuals have received medication to improve or safe-guard their eyesight

Thanks to all our volunteers and our partner, SightSavers International!