Less than half of donated eyes collected under the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) are used for corneal transplantation, according to government data.

Cornea transplantation is the changing or replacing of the opaque cornea with a transparent clear tissue. In other words, it is the removal of damaged cornea tissues with healthy cornea tissues from a donor.

As many as 30-40% donations cannot be used due to hepatitis, cancer or other unknown factors, said Sudesh Arya, professor and head of department of ophthalmology, Government Medical College & Hospital, Chandigarh.

For a successful transplant, eyes need to be donated within four hours of death; otherwise they can’t be used, Arya said.

Since 2012-13, eye donations have reached their target every year, according to data from NPCB.

Most donations were in 2016 -17: against a target of 50,000, there were 65,135 eye donations, according to this reply to the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) by Anupriya Patel, minister of state for health and family welfare on April 7, 2017.

For 2017-18, 21% of the target has already been achieved till June 30, 2017.

Source : National Programme For Control of Blindness; * data till June 2017

As many as 20% of childhood blindness is caused due to corneal diseases, and almost 80% of all corneal blindness is avoidable, according to Jaswant Mehta, trustee, Eye Bank Coordination and Research Centre of KBH Bachooali Hospital in Parel, Mumbai, Times of India reported on November 25, 2016.

Visually impaired people of all ages is estimated to be 285 million of which 39 million are blind, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

(Dantewadia is a data journalist with IndiaSpend.)