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Seva

Seva Foundation works to prevent and cure blindness and visual impairment among impoverished communities in the developing world. Seva works with existing local programs and institutions, providing a range of vision care and blindness prevention procedures. Seva supports community outreach and education programs focused on nutrition, hygiene, eye injury prevention, and cultural awareness of local eye care services. Seva also provides free or low-cost eye exams, glasses, medical treatment and surgery to those who cannot afford to pay the full cost of these procedures.

Seva works with vulnerable communities in more than 20 countries across Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Their work includes outreach and vision support for Native American populations.

The Problem

Preventable blindness and vision impairment. Worldwide, 36 million people live with blindness, and another 217 million are visually impaired. Yet three out of four cases of blindness are preventable. Further, avoidable vision impairment disproportionately affects the global poor. Nearly 90 percent of those affected live in the developing world, where a combination of malnutrition, poor water quality, lack of sanitation and inadequate healthcare and health education conspires to spread diseases which damage vision and impede access to treatment. Visual impairment further entrenches people in poverty and can be deadly for sufferers: over half of children die within a few years of going blind, either from the underlying disease or due to the inability of their impoverished families to care for them.

The Solution

Lost-cost cataract surgeries and vision procedures. Around 75 percent of all visual impairments can be prevented or cured. In many cases, a person’s sight and livelihood can be restored through the use of inexpensive medication or surgery. Cataracts cause half of global blindness (and a third of all visual impairment). Restorative surgery is one of the most cost- effective of all public health interventions.

How Seva is different from other charities

Seva’s vision is a world free of blindness. Seva’s revolutionary cataract interventions mean that as little as $50 can fund a cataract surgery for an individual in the developing world.

The 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study showed that, because of the efforts of organizations such as Seva, in 2010, 18.5 million fewer people were blind than would have been expected given population growth and ageing since 1990.

Why Seva is effective

Cost-effective interventions

It costs as little as $50 to fund a sight-restoring cataract surgery, and Seva offers free and deeply discounted procedures to individuals and families who cannot afford the cost of services. During the 1990s, Seva was a key player in helping to launch the Indian-based Aurolab, which manufactures high quality, low-cost intraocular lenses for about $5--compared to roughly $100 to $150 at typical market prices.

Designed for scale

Over almost 40 years, Seva has restored vision to over 35 million people. In the 2016-2017 year alone, the organization provided eye care services to 1.5 million people.

Reaching remote communities

Seva establishes vision centers in remote areas, and supports mobile teams of doctors and staff to provide health education, screening, and sight restoration surgeries to individuals unable to travel to established medical facilities.

High Impact

Seva’s accountability and sustainability

Seva is a recommended charity of The Life You Can Save. The Foundation has been rigorously vetted by Focusing Philanthropy, which awarded Seva grant money to fund their vital surgeries and vision work in the developing world.In 2015, Seva received the prestigious Champalimaud Award for its contribution to the worldwide effort to eliminate preventable and treatable blindness.

Seva makes all annual reports available on its website.

With the goal of helping communities become self-sustaining, Seva partners with local organizations to improve local health infrastructure long-term; facilitates relationships between their local partners and a network of international development and eye care specialists; trains local eye health workers and provides medical supplies and community outreach with the goal of helping communities to become self-sustaining. Seva has helped more than 20 countries develop their own high quality eye care infrastructure and is currently building capacity in over 90 hospitals and clinics.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do individuals pay for their eye care?

Seva’s comprehensive approach expands community programs and provides free or low-cost eye exams, surgery, prescription glasses, and medical treatment to those who cannot afford the cost of services.

Which populations are most at risk for vision impairment?

Developing countries account for nearly 90 percent of the world's cases of blindness and vision impairment—in these low-income countries, almost everyone with cataract becomes blind, so those over 50 are very vulnerable. An estimated 1.4 million children live with blindness around the world and another 19 million are visually impaired. Most of these kids live in areas of the world where even the most basic eye care services continue to be out of reach. Combatting child blindness is one of the most cost effective health interventions and kids who have their sight restored are given an average of 50 years of sight. More than half of people living with blindness and visual impairment are women and girls. In developing countries, women and girls are far less likely to have access to eye care services because of the barriers they face. From lack of education and financial resources to limited decision-making power, Seva and their partners help women and girls overcome barriers.

Why does eye disease correlate with poverty?

Malnutrition, inadequate healthcare, lack of education, poor water quality and sanitation often lead to a high incidences of eye disease and preventable blindness in the developing world. As a result, these vision conditions can exacerbate the cycle of poverty and blindness for the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Why does The Life You Can Save recommend Seva?

Seva has been one of our recommended charities since before our current charity selection process was adopted in November 2016. Preventable blindness has a reputation for being a highly cost-effective intervention. Seva was suggested to us as an organization working in this field by Focusing Philanthropy, a highly regarded foundation that we view as mission and value aligned. Focusing Philanthropy has done significant due diligence on Seva, including multiple site visits. 

Will my donation be tax-deductible?

Donations to Seva are tax-deductible for US donors. Canadian donors can make tax-advantaged gifts to Seva's sister organization, Seva Canada. Eligible UK donors can claim Gift Aid by donating to Seva through The Life You Can Save UK here.

More Information

Image credits
Photo #1: Aaron Simon
Photo #2: Seva
Photo #3: Aaron Simon
Photo #4: Julie Nestingen

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