Uncorrected poor vision affects 55 crore (550 million) Indians and costs the national economy US$3700 crores (US$37 billion) every year in lost productivity. In a study conducted in working men and women in Andhra Pradesh, wearing spectacles was found to increase productivity by 34% and worker’s income by 20%.Out of 7.2 billion people in the world, it is estimated that 4.5 billion need visual correction in some form or another, whereas only 2 billion are corrected. This means there are 2.5 billion people in the world today with uncorrected vision, and this number is set to rise to 3 billion by 2030 if the trend continues. About 95% of the 2.5 billion uncorrected populations are in emerging countries.
India has about 40,000 opticians, most of who operate from bigger cities whereas over 70% of population in India lives in rural areas. To address this issue, Eye Mitra Optician program was launched in 2013. Through training, skills building and livelihood promotion, the program empowers unemployed and underemployed young people to set up micro enterprises in their rural communities. Trained for 12 months (2 months classroom and 10 months On Job Training)to conduct basic vision screening and dispense affordable eyeglasses, Eye Mitras create access to vision care where it was not available before. Today with nearly 6,000 Eye Mitras across 14 states, it is the world’s largest rural optical network providing over 200 million people with sustainable access to vision care. By 2020 plan is to have 10,000 such eye mitracovering most of the underserved states.
“Uncorrected poor vision is the world’s most widespread disability and affects 1 in 3 people, 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries where the biggest barriers are access and awareness. Consumers in these countries need tailor-made solutions and products at affordable prices to satisfy their visual needs and aspirations. The Eye Mitra program is one such unique solution,” said MilindJadhav Senior Director – Inclusive Business & Philanthropy – Essilor
In Rajasthan, Essilor is implementing the Eye MitraOptician program in partnership with B-ABLE (BASIX Academy for Building Lifelong Employability) which is the vocational training arm of the BASIX group of livelihood promotion institutions. B-ABLE is NSDC (National Skill Development Corporation) & HSSC (Health Sector Skill Council) partner. First training centre was set up in Alwar in 2013 and at present we have 4 such training centres. More than 1,000 Eye Mitra Opticians are working in 31 districts of Rajasthan and plan is to have 1500 eye Mitras by end of 2020.
About 2.5 New Vision Generation and the Eye Mitra program
In 2013, Essilor, leading ophthalmic optics company, established its inclusive business 2.5 New Vision Generation (2.5 NVG), to create awareness, develop infrastructure and bring affordable eye care to lowincome countries which count for 90 per cent of the 2.5 billion people who suffer from uncorrected poor vision globally. Essilor’s inclusive business programs impact seven out of 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. These include no poverty, quality educations, gender equality and decent work and economic growth.
2.5 NVG launched its flagship inclusive business program Eye Mitra in India in 2013 as part of its strategy of increasing awareness and access to vision care for underserved populations and at the same time improving their livelihood. Eye Mitra (Hindi for “friend of the eyes”) addresses unmet needs for vision care by recruiting and training unemployed and underemployed young people to become primary vision care providers.Similar programs have been launched in Bangladesh and Kenya in 2018 and are known locally as Eye Mitroand Eye Rafiki respectively.