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Choithram Netralaya restores vision of more than 76,000 people Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: With all the world’s health focus now on COVID-19, most of us seem to forget the other illnesses plaguing the planet. One such major conditions is blindness.

According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, it is estimated at least 2.2 billion people in the world have vision impairment. Of those, at least 1 billion cases are avoidable. One-fourth of the world’s blind population, estimated to be around 8 million, live in India.

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As Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate Eid Al Adha, a Dubai corporate has been tirelessly working in India to bring light of vision to those in the dark. On the festive occasion, the Choithram International Foundation is put together ‘Gift of Sight’ — a compilation of stories, figures, analyses and insights of how 75 per cent of the visually impaired persons in the world could have their vision restored. The narration follows a visually impaired village dweller in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

L.T. Pagarani, Chairman of Choithrams, said, “On behalf of the Choithrams family, we take this opportunity to thank each of you, and help us reach many more with the gift of sight.”

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Eye care kits being distributed at a Choithram camp Image Credit: Supplied

Offering free surgery and low-cost treatment, Choithram Netralaya restores vision of more than 25,000 people every year at Indore in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. As part of Choithram International Foundation (CIF), the eye hospital joins several other welfare institutes to provide an ever-expanding ambit of care and commitment towards humanitarian causes in health care and education across the globe.

Abdullah abdulwahed Ahmed Mohammed Al-Ali from the UAE recently visited the facility. “Our visit to Choithram Netralaya (CN) during the mega camp in January 2020, opened our eyes. We have a blessed life in Dubai, but there are so many out there who need help. May more and more blind people in need have their eyesight restored in the months and years to come.”

‘Gift of Sight’ presents a matter-of-fact and transparent account of operating a wide network of eye care infrastructure that reaches more than 20 million people in the most remote parts of rural India.

“We were humbled by what we saw that at the mega camp. The hospital is doing a great service to humanity. We take this message back to Dubai — that where there is goodness and good will, great things can happen,” remarked a visiting dignitary from Dubai, Ahmed Ali Ayachi.

As the UAE prepares to celebrate its golden jubilee in 2021, the current year is about building a strategy for the next 50 years. An important part of the strategy will be to consolidate the global footprint of the UAE in humanitarian programmes. The UAE’s private sector will do well to join hands and bolster the nation’s outreach.

“Avoidable blindness remains a major threat to development globally. We are looking to collaborate at Expo 2020 next year to bring actionable global solutions that can bring down the high incidence of avoidable blindness,” Pagarani said.

During a three-month annual mega camp, Choithram Netralaya conducts more than 10,000 free cataract surgeries (pre-COVID-19) serving the underserved, needy population in rural India. The eye hospital facility outside the city of Indore can accommodate more than 250 patients across eight general wards with a provision of 12 fully-equipped operating theatres — a team of 13 specialists perform cataract surgery all day and all night.

50 million people impacted

Choithram International Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Choithrams, the leading supermarket chain in the UAE, works with a number of local, regional and global entities to foster the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Through its donorship of international projects in education, health care, food security and sustainable practices, the Foundation impacts the lives of more than 50 million people in Africa, Asia and Middle East.