KATHMANDU, Dec 20: Even as 47,000 people have agreed to donate cornea after death, 300 people across the country are still living with corneal blindness. This, because the only eye bank in the country does not have a mechanism to immediately access information about donors´ death.
The bank is thus preparing to launch a campaign to collect corneas from dead bodies in the next two months.
The bank, which is under Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO) in Kathmandu, is currently training counselors, who will be visiting various hospitals and cremation sites to persuade families of the just-deceased people to allow the bank´s technicians to excise corneas from the dead bodies.
"Once the training is completed, our campaign will kick off," said Shankha Narayan Twayana, manager of the bank. "We want to collect as many corneas as possible during the campaign."
According to Twayana, the eye bank came up with the idea of organizing a cornea-collection campaign to fulfill the rising demand for cornea.
Today, around 300 people, who have lost their eye-sight due to their defective corneas, urgently need corneal transplants to able to see again. However, the bank is unable to meet their requirements though 47,000 people have so far formally agreed to donate their corneas after death.
The bank lacks an effective mechanism to get immediate information about the death of people who have signed a letter of understanding for corneal-donation after death. And, even if the bank learns about the death of their prospective eye-donors, families of the dead often create hurdles.
These are some of the major reasons behind why the bank is unable to provide corneas to even 300 people despite so many prospective eye-donors.
The bank has so far hired five counselors to collect corneas from hospitals and cremation sites.
"Only few people are aware of cornea donation. Yet, most of them do not care about it," said Twayana. "Many people still have a misconception. Our campaign will raise awareness about the importance of eye-donation apart from collecting corneas."
"We will work as a bridge between donors and patients. We will try our best to convince people about the importance of cornea donation," said Ram Pyari Karki, one of the five counselors.
"It is very difficult to convince a family for cornea donation. Our social construct doesn´t easily allow us to do so. Still we have to convince them about its importance and that their donation would give a new life to a blind person," said Sundar Mahat, counselor at eye bank.