ERITREA—The ‘Himalayan Cataract Project’ ophthalmologists successfully performed a series of cataract procedures at Berhan Aini Hospital in Asmara.

This medical campaign, which began on February 12, resulted in 700 cataract surgeries and an extra 10 advanced cornea transplants.

Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens that hinders clear vision and, if not treated, typically leads to blindness.

At least 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from near or distant visual impairment, with at least 1 billion of them possibly preventable or unaddressed.

Refractive errors and cataracts are the primary causes of visual impairment and blindness worldwide, followed by diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.

According to WHO, only 36% of persons with distance vision impairment owing to refractive error and 17% of those with vision impairment due to cataracts have received an adequate intervention.

Vision impairment has a massive worldwide financial impact, with an estimated yearly global productivity cost of US$411 billion.

Vision loss may impact persons of various ages, although the majority of those who are visually impaired or blind are over the age of 50.

Cataract surgery includes replacing the clouded lens within the eye with an artificial one.

It has a high success rate for improving your vision and might take 2 to 6 weeks to fully recover after cataract surgery.

The project coordinator, Dr. Mengis Baire, stressed that this surgical program is a continuation of the ‘Himalayan Cataract Project’ team’s long-standing efforts.

He expressed confidence that Eritrean professionals working with the visiting ophthalmologists will benefit from this effort.

Dr. Mengis expanded on the project’s scope by mentioning a collaboration agreement with the Ministry of Health, the College of Medicine, and the Orota College of Health Science.

He finished by  noting that this partnership aimed not only to perform surgeries but also to facilitate college student training, technology transfer, and medical equipment support, thereby improving Eritrea’s healthcare infrastructure.

Prof. Geoff Tabin, a co-founder of the ‘Himalayan Cataract Project’ and a lecturer at Stanford University, expressed his hope that this initiative will serve as a framework for Eritrean medical specialists to execute similar procedures independently in the future, harnessing their inherent skills.

Ms. Amina Nurhussein, Minister of Health, evaluated the program’s development and impact personally on February 15.

Her visit emphasized the importance of this program in enhancing the country’s eye care and surgical services, marking a significant step forward in Eritrea’s fight against avoidable blindness.

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