Al-Shifa Trust Highlights Urgent Need for Corneal Donations Amid Rising Blindness in Pakistan

Rawalpindi, Al-Shifa Trust, a leading eye care institution in Pakistan, has underscored the critical importance of corneal donations, revealing that thousands of lives could be transformed if more people came forward to donate. With nine thousand individuals currently on the waiting list for corneal transplants, the trust is calling for increased public awareness and participation in corneal donation to address the significant disparity between supply and demand.

According to Al-Shifa Trust, the organization receives around 800 corneal donations annually but is facing a severe shortage, with many on the waiting list enduring years before they can undergo surgery to restore their vision. Corneal blindness represents up to 15% of all blindness cases, highlighting the urgent need for donations.

Maj. Gen Khan emphasized the reluctance of the Pakistani population to donate corneas, noting that in the past thirty years, only two individuals had made such donations. This has led to reliance on corneal donations from Americans, who have been more willing to support Pakistani patients through this charitable act.

In response to this critical shortage, Al-Shifa Trust established Pakistan’s first eye bank at its Rawalpindi premises in August 2018, in collaboration with the American organization Eversight. This facility allows individuals to register their will to donate corneas, aiming to bridge the gap in corneal availability. Despite these efforts, 53% of eye patients still lack access to donated corneas, necessitating imports from the USA and Sri Lanka.

Maj. Gen Khan also highlighted the simplicity of corneal transplants, noting that corneas do not require blood matching between the donor and recipient, making it easier to perform successful transplants across different age groups.

Al-Shifa Trust has extended its corneal transplant services to its Sukkar hospital, where 50 successful transplants have been performed at no cost to patients. The trust’s commitment to providing free eye care is evident, with 80% of surgeries at its hospitals in Rawalpindi, Sukkar, Kohat, Muzaffarabad, and Chakwal being performed free of charge. To date, the trust has conducted over one million various eye surgeries, reaffirming its dedication to combating blindness in Pakistan.

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