2019 Feb 11
1 in every 5 Sri Lankans is a registered eye donor.
This surplus has now made Sri Lanka help give back sight to individuals from more than 57 countries worldwide.
The world faces a scarcity in donors and many are left bereft of sight. Despite the lack of donors in this field, Sri Lanka has managed to surpass any and all obstacles posed and managed to receive millions of donors island-wide. Sri Lankans eagerly continue to pledge their eyes upon death which has enabled Sri Lanka to export to fill the gap of the worldwide scarcity.
In 2014, the Eye Donation Society exported 2,551 corneas, including 1,000 to China, 850 to Pakistan, 250 to Thailand, and 50 to Japan. Pakistan and Egypt have been major recipients of Sri Lankan corners, along with Malaysia, Nigeria, Sudan, and more.
Most countries in the world, including the UK, import this organ from countries such as ours, since the cornea is a tissue donors are least likely to consider in such countries.
So why are Lankans so keen on donating their eyes?
“Let the donor have a good rebirth”
This blessing is scripted on every certificate given to those who pledge their eyes, fuelling the passion of millions of Sri Lankans to pass on the light, the gift of sight.
A country with a majority of Buddhists, many believe that helping others with the gift of sight will in turn bless their next lives – the ‘dana’ or donation will enable them to be reincarnated into a better life. Additionally, the impressive work by the late Hudson Silva, who began this process in 1964, helped fuel the nation’s eagerness to donate. Over the years, the relevant societies and organizations have spread the word across the nation – and it has definitely reached the ears of the Lankan people.
The Science Behind It
According to the WHO, 4% of the world’s 39 million blind people suffer from corneal opacity (the scarring or clouding over of the cornea) while another 3% suffer from trachoma, a bacterial infection that results in damage to the cornea.
Cataracts and glaucoma both cause more cases of blindness, but trachoma is described as the main cause of preventable blindness.
The main reason for cornea transplants (keratoplasty) in Sri Lanka is the damage to the cornea as the result of an infection – sometimes including ulcers (infective keratitis) or keratoconus, where the cornea becomes too thin and its shape is distorted.
The eye is one of the most sensitive organs in the human anatomy. One of the most important tissues of the eye is the cornea. The cornea is the transparent part positioned at the forefront of the eye. It lets in light which in turn helps focus images into the retina.
Unfortunately the cornea is easily damaged either by way of injury or sight–altering disease. As a result, a person’s sight deteriorates, even to the extent of blindness.
The solution to this would be to replace the damaged cornea with a healthy one via means of transplant.
The cornea is one of the easiest tissues to transplant because no prerequisites are required in order to find a match between the donor and the recipient. This tissue is bloodless as it obtains its supply of oxygen directly from air.
Harvesting the donor eye for transplant must happen within a few hours of death of the donor and the cornea itself must be used on a patient within about four weeks, given that there is a standard method of storage.
Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society and International Eye Bank
Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society is a government approved charity organization established under Cornea Grafting act No.38 of 1955.
The International Eye Bank founded by the late Dr. Hudson Silva in 1961. At inception, the only source was eyes of condemned prisoners. Now however, generous locals of this predominantly Buddhist nation have pledged their eyes to be donated upon death. This generosity to date has enabled approximately 47015 cornea donations internationally and approximately 28150 cornea donations island-wide.
Join the Community
You can contact the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society on 0112698040/1/3 or visit the headquarters at No. 120/12, Vidya Mawatha Colombo 07. If you’re not on the list yet, it’s never too late!