Eye Health in the Indian Sunderbans

Main objectives

  • To measure the prevalence and causes of visual impairment before and after our project interventions.
  • To measure the coverage of key eye health services among people in the Sunderbans, such as cataract surgery and spectacle use, before and after our project interventions.
  • To assess the knowledge and practice of primary eye care among rural medical practitioners (RMPs) who are trained under the project
  • To assess the referral practices to vision centres and base hospitals by RMPs trained under the project
  • To measure use of spectacles among people provided them under the project
  • To understand the reasons for not using spectacles among people given spectacles.


Sightsavers India implemented an eye health programme in the Indian Sunderbans in West Bengal from 2013 to 2018. The objective of project was to contribute to the elimination of avoidable blindness in the area. The project was implemented across 19 administrative blocks of Sunderbans in the two districts of North and South 24 Parganas in West Bengal. The project was completed with the support of three local NGOs namely, Sunderbans Social Development Centre (SSDC), Southern Health Improvement Society (SHIS) and Vivekananda Mission Asram (VMA). Over the course of the project, several research studies were implemented which were designed to help plan, implement and evaluate the project.

Two surveys, one conducted and baseline and one at endline, were undertaken to measure the eye health status of people living in the Sunderbans region and understand their health seeking behaviour. Results were compared to understand what changes had occurred over the course of the project.

Two other research studies were conducted to investigate specific interventions that were carried out in the project:

  • The first study focused on the project’s strategy to engage rural medical practitioners (RMPs), informal but commonly used community-based health workers in basic identification and referral of patients requiring eye health services. The study sought to understand how RMPs had been engaged during the project, and how it had affected their practice in terms of identifying and referring patients with eye conditions.
  • The second study focused on patients who had been diagnosed with refractive error and subsequently received spectacles from the project. The study sought to measure the proportion of patients who were using the spectacles 6-18 months after receiving them, and among those people who had discontinued use, to understand their reasons for not using them.

Report and Resources

Sunderbans Endline Survey 2018_FINAL

Sunderbans RMP Study_FINAL

Sunderbans Spec Compliance Study_ 2018_FINAL

Findings from this research are also featured in a special issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: Leaving no one behind: Equity and Eye Health.

Study details
Start date
Finish date
5 years
Main contact
Soumya Mohanty
Research Officer
  • Sightsavers India
  • Promancy Strategic Consulting, India