By December, Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital in Lahan, Nepal, will have trained 22 eye surgeons to give hundreds of people in south east Nepal the chance to see.
Sagarmatha Choudhary is one of many new hospitals opening as part of Christian Blind Mission International's (CBMI) plan to cure preventable blindness by the year 2020.
Other hospitals for dispensing much-needed medicines and for training indigenous doctors are opening in Kenya, Nigeria, Colombia, India, and the Republic of Congo.
"The blind in nonindustrialized nations are often the last to hear the gospel because they can't read the Bible in traditional print," says Alan Harkey, president of CBMI. "When we help people to see physically we're helping them to gain spiritual sight as well."
Almost 90 percent of permanent blindness in Nepal could have been prevented or treated with simple medicines. But for every million people in its population, Nepal has only ten ophthalmologists. African countries are often even more impoverished, with only one ophthalmologist for every million.
There are five types of preventable or curable blinding diseases that CBMI is focusing on eradicating. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye lens that can be cut away; trachoma and river blindness are infections that can be cured by medicine and better living conditions; childhood blindness often results from malnourishment; and low vision simply requires eyewear to correct problems.
Maintaining good eyesight poses another problem, says CBMI's Lor Cunningham. "After cataract surgery, patients usually require glasses, but 99 percent of the people in Nepal live in rural areas and can't get their glasses fixed or replaced if they get lost or broken."
In response to this dilemma, CBMI recently conducted a study in Nepal involving the use of interocular lenses in cataract surgery. Christian Blind Mission International found a way to produce interocular lenses for only $10 a pair, allowing them to be inserted during surgery. Patients no longer have to worry about losing or breaking eyewear that is too difficult or costly to replace.
"Programs like this that meet people at the point of their need really minister to those who get overlooked," Harkey says. "People in poorer countries are ten times more likely to go blind because they can't get simple treatment or care."
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