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

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

Project Duration: March 2005 - 2012

Project Partner(s): Sightsavers International

Project Region: Gudalur, Udhagamandalam and Coonoor districts of the Nilgiri District, Tamil Nadu

Target Group: Low-income people in remote areas, who cannot afford or access vision care services

Principal Objective: Providing comprehensive eye care to the local community

In March 2005 CTRD embarked on a highly successful partnership with Sightsavers International. Due to the success of the former Community Eye Health (CEH) Project, the scheme was updated in April 2009 to become the Strengthening Networks for Eye Health and Advocacy (SNEHA) Project and has been extended after the end of the project period in 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 SNEHA project in the Gudalur, Udhagamandalam and Coonoor Blocks of the Nilgiri District.

Poor eye health is a widespread and significant problem for tens of thousands of individuals across the 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 eye lens. Blindness due to cataracts is reversible with a quick, routine operation that does not require general anesthetic and is common-place in the West. Poor eye health has become one of the largest health obstacles in the 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 excluded from social life and 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. These include eye check up's, eye health awareness programs and educational services and rehabilitation schemes for the visually impaired. Community screening camps are conducted in a number 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 and 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 promoted the use of government hospitals for a range of other health complaints, further improving the health of local communities.