In times of disaster, some of the most immediate needs of the survivors are food, clothing, shelter and medicine. But a group of doctors who responded to the disaster-struck Tohoku region in March 2011 discovered another essential need by many in the area. The results of their study was published in a recent report and it showed that many who were affected also needed new eyeglasses on top of their basic needs.
Places struck by the 2011 disaster had practitioners attending to people’s various medical needs. But while the group who went there were prepared to treat infections mostly brought by unsanitary conditions and contaminated water, what they weren’t expecting was the numerous survivors needing new glasses, contact lenses and even eye drops. Locals clinics and equipment were also devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that doctors who responded had to travel to the area on broken roads riding a van called, Mission Vision Van. The van was equipped with machines and other paraphernalia that would aid them in treating the victims. Led by Dr. Hiroshi Kunikata, the doctors from the Tohoku University and Miyagi Ophthalmologists Association and some volunteers were among those who came by way of the Vision Van and they were successful in visiting 11 districts in 15 days to check on a total of 371 patients.
Upon analysis of their treatments, it was discovered that only 8 percent of those they treated were caused by infections and most of the complaints were nearsightedness, blurred vision and astigmatism. Some who approached them had cataract and dry eye problems, which they treated with eye drops. As lack of eyeglasses and contact lenses affected the survivors’ vision, Kunikata noted, “In some cases, this placed a severe burden on these survivors, in addition the burdens already faced by all those who lived through the disaster, not only in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, but during the days, weeks and months that followed while they waited for outside assistance.” This resulted in their recommendation for Mission Vision Vans to be used in future relief efforts and the Japan Ophthalmologists Association has been given its own Vision Van by the government back in 2013. Since then, the Vision Van has been utilized in relief operations in Japan and in the Philippines, the latter during the Haiyan disaster late last year.
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