Our goal in establishing the Prakash Center is to improve the lives of children with disabilities. Our approach integrates medical treatment, rehabilitation/education, and cutting-edge scientific research. While the Center's eventual objective is to address a broad set of childhood disabilities, its focus at the outset is on blindness. This is one of the most prevalent pediatric disabilities with a profoundly detrimental effect on children's prospects in life.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 13 million children in the world are blind or visually impaired. 87% of these children reside in third world countries with severely limited medical care facilities. Most live their entire lives with the visual impairment even though in over 80% of the cases, the conditions are in fact treatable or preventable. The visual handicap, coupled with extreme poverty, greatly compromises the children's quality of life. For instance, in India, which is home to the world's largest population of childhood blindness, over 90% of blind children are unable to obtain an education and fewer than 50% survive to adulthood. More than 80% are unemployed as adults. Most children never receive medical care because the treatment facilities are concentrated in major cities, while the vast majority of the population lives in villages. These circumstances effectively ensure that a blind child in a financially strapped rural family will live a dark and tragically short life. For blind girls, the outlook is even more dire. Over 30% of girls with disabilities suffer physical or sexual abuse.
The goal of the Prakash Center is to address this pressing humanitarian crisis by:
1. Providing treatment to curably blind children,
2. Helping them gain an education, and
3. Conducting scientific research to discover better treatments and rehabilitation procedures.
To target a country where the need for the Prakash effort is the greatest, and also to build upon the experience we have gained over the past few years, we intend to situate the first Prakash Center in India.