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Sunetra Sarker joins Sightsavers in India to visit eye screenings of truck drivers

February 2020
Actress Sunetra Sarker speaks to a truck driver.

Sightsavers’ celebrity ambassador, British actress Sunetra Sarker, visited an innovative eye programme run by Sightsavers and spoke to long-distance truckers to understand how poor eyesight might be affecting their lives and work.

India has one of the highest rates of road fatalities in the world with over 300,000 people dying on the roads each year, according to World Health Organization figures. Many of these accidents are due to the poor eyesight of drivers.

For many drivers in India, getting to an eye screening or buying pair of glasses can be unaffordable or difficult to access.

To overcome these issues, Sightsavers has set up pop-up eye testing stations at truck stops across the country where drivers can get screened free of charge and given a pair of glasses fitting their prescription if needed.

Sunetra visited India in February to see how this innovative, life-saving solution is working out in the eye camps of Bengaluru and find out why there are millions of drivers on the roads around the world who aren’t able to see properly.

Mateen, one of the bus drivers she spoke to, had been doing his job over 22 years. When she asked him if this was his first eye check, he admitted it was: “I never saw the point,” he said.

A truck driver sits in his truck.

Roadside eye care

Sightsavers has been helping Indian truckers stay safe on the roads.

More about the project

Sunetra found that lots of the men were shy about confessing they had vision problems. Sunetra went on the BBC Asian Network Big Debate show on 25 February, where she reflected on the reluctance many drivers showed to open up about their eyesight. “People don’t want to hold up their hand up and say: ‘you know what, I’ve got no vision, I can’t quite see as well as I could do… but I can’t say anything in case I lose my job,’” she said.

“Despite all this, look how easily we can fix it – and what’s the result? If we can save one life from being lost because we gave these people a pair of glasses then surely that’s a good thing.”

You can listen to Sunetra’s interview on the BBC Asian Network here. It starts from 2 hours and 12 minutes in.

Our chairman, Sir Clive Jones, also recently visited our eye health projects with truckers in India. You can read about his experience here.

About Sunetra

Sunetra stars as Kaneez on the Channel 4 show Ackley Bridge, for which she won Best TV Character at the Asian Media Awards last year.

She has been a Sightsavers supporter since 2009, when she wore a blindfold for a day to highlight the plight of thousands of blind women around the globe.

“If we can save one life from being lost because we gave these people a pair of glasses then surely that’s a good thing.”

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