About80% of global blindness can be avoided or cured.
In India, cataract blindness directly affects more than 5 million people. The north eastern state of Bihar is home to over half a million curably blind people.
Predominantly rural, Bihar is one of the poorest states in India and one of the world's worst affected places for cataract blindness. The majority of the rural population of Bihar live in remote, hard to reach locations with poor access to healthcare facilities. Here poverty and blindness go hand in hand; the rural blind are poor because they are blind, and they are blind because they are poor.
The World Health Organisation states that the global eradication of curable blindness is achievable by the year 2020. In Bihar, if this goal is to be achieved, it is a race against time.
The Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital (AJEH), currently perform over 100 cataract operations every day completely free of charge. They manage this from an extremely rural location, without proper roads and without grid electricity. AJEH is currently the largest eye hospital in Bihar; in 2010-11 the hospital team conducted 47,000 operations of which 37,000 were free of cost to the poor. A central focus of AJEH is outreach; patients are brought to the hospital from eye camps conducted in remote village locations.
The AJEH's work relies on the help of a group of dedicated volunteers many of whom are former cataract patients. These Protectors of Sight" seek out the blind and bring them to hospital for surgery.