There are several charitable organizations within the eye care industry on regional, national, and global levels, all doing their part to improve the ocular health of the less fortunate. One such organization, The Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP), has been working toward ridding developing countries of blindness for 17 years.
The HCP was started in 1994 by two ophthalmologists, Dr. Sanduk Ruit and Dr. Geoff Tabin, who have devoted their professional lives to curing preventable blindness. Dr. Ruit, a native of Nepal, developed a sutureless form of cataract surgery with intraocular lenses, allowing for safe, high-volume, inexpensive cataract operations. Dr. Tabin is the Director of the Division of International Ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah. He learned Dr. Ruit’s form of cataract surgery and spends much of the year performing surgeries in the Himalayas and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Himalayan region accounts for the highest prevalence of cataract blindness on earth. It is not fully understood why this is, but many doctors believe it is a combination of genetic predisposition, high altitude, sunlight, diet, and a lack of medical and educational services.
On a whole, 90% of the earth’s blind live in the developing world. When someone becomes blind in these regions of the world, 90% of them can no longer work, their life expectancy drops by a third, 50% report a loss in social standing or authority, and 80% of all women struck by blindness in the developing world note a loss of authority within their families.
There are many health problems affecting the developing world that are unavoidable, but cataract blindness is not one of them. This is why the HCP is committed to doing all they can to help those in need. They have trained over 100 doctors and 100 ophthalmic assistants since the organization’s founding and performed 12,000 to 15,000 cataract surgeries each year. The HCP not only performs surgeries and screenings in remote regions of the world, but also works to educate local eye care professionals and build eye care facilities and infrastructure to help sustain their efforts.
To donate or learn more about the HPC, please visit their website.