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India's Aravind Eye Care System Gets Hilton Prize

Aravind Eye Care System is the largest eye care provider in the world
Aravind Eye Care System is the largest eye care provider in the world

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

An eye care organization in India is being honored for its efforts. On Tuesday, Aravind Eye Care System will receive the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. The award will be presented in Redwood City, California, during a conference of the Global Philanthropy Forum.

Conrad Hilton, who made his wealth in the hotel industry, established the humanitarian prize in nineteen ninety-six. Each year the award is given to a charitable or nongovernmental organization working to end human suffering. The prize includes one and a half million dollars.

Aravind Eye Care System is being recognized for its work with millions of people in India.

Retired eye surgeon Govindappa Venkataswamy established the organization in nineteen seventy-six. He wanted to make high quality eye care available to all, especially India's poor. He wanted to prevent needless cases of blindness.

Eight out of ten people with vision problems live in developing countries. The World Health Organization says eighty-five percent of all vision problems could be prevented or cured. That includes seventy-five percent of all blindness.

An estimated forty-five million people are blind, and India is home to ten million of them.

Doctor Venkataswamy established the first Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, in Tamil Nadu state, with only eleven beds. Today Aravind Eye Care System is the largest eye care provider in the world. It operates five hospitals and more than thirty eye care centers across India.

About seventy percent of the patients receive free care. The money comes from the thirty percent of patients who can pay for their services.

In nineteen ninety-two, Aravind established what was described as Asia's first training center for the prevention of blindness. Support from the SightFirst program of Lions Club International financed the Lions Aravind Institute of Community Ophthalmology.

Also, the Aravind Medical Research Foundation investigates the causes and treatment of eye disease.

Aravind Eye Care System has been recognized internationally. Its work has been used as a model for establishing similar programs around the world.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs can be found at You can also visit us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember.