Comm Eye Health Vol. 33 No. 109 2020 pp 11. Published online 01 September 2020.

An eye hospital’s humanitarian response to COVID-19

Five people standing at a desk outdoors handing items to a man in a disability vehicle
Figure 2 Nirphad eye hospital, India, distributing food and sanitation packs to a man with a physical disability who is using a three-wheeled vehicle © CBM/NIRPHAD
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NIRPHAD (Naujhil Integrated Rural Project for Health and Development) Rural Eye Hospital is a secondary eye hospital in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Northern India. It focuses mainly on eye patients from vulnerable populations and has strong links to community-based rehabilitation services, as well as organisations of people with disabilities.

People with their faces covered lining up in a queue outside a hospital entrance
Figure 1 NIRPHAD Rural Eye Hospital distributing sanitation packs to people queueing in front of the hospital’s entrance © CBM/NIRPHAD

Since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the eye hospital offered services to emergency patients only. At the same time, staff members decided to organise humanitarian response activities. NIRPHAD Rural Eye Hospital is located next to one of the main national highways in India, and the sudden announcement of a national lockdown in India at the end of March resulted in us seeing thousands of migrant workers passing by on their way back to their homes in rural villages. Hospital staff members handed out around 1,500 sanitisation kits and food packs in this time (Figure 1).

A blind person sitting on a step with two bags, one on his knee
Figure 3 A disabled person has received food and a sanitation kit © CBM/NIRPHAD

Eye hospital personnel also started to distribute soap, masks and food to poor and vulnerable people in Mathura town, focusing on people with disabilities (Figures 2 and 3). This targeted humanitarian response was possible because the health workers already had access to a lot of information about people with disabilities in the community, including where they work, thanks to a disability-disaggregated community survey that was conducted before the pandemic.

Personnel trained in disability-inclusive development supported the district authorities to provide accessible health information, for example by using plain language that is understood easily by everybody, including people with cognitive disabilities.

We would like to acknowledge Mr Shashikant Mishra and Mr Jeetesh Lavanya from the Naujhil Integrated Rural Project for Health and Development, as well as Mr Shakeeb Khan and Mr Nirad Bag from the CBM India Trust