There is a countless number of people in the world who are blind, unable to see the wonders and colors of the world before them. Thankfully, there is a spectacular organization which has taken the disability seriously and found a way to restore sight with a simple surgery.
The nonprofit organization, Himalayan Cataract Project, has been performing cataract surgeries throughout Asia and Africa since the 1990s. Two ophthalmologists were inspired to pursue the initiative after they saw firsthand how debilitating blindness is.
Cataracts can be cured by inserting miniature plastic lenses that properly focus the light into the patient’s eye. Apparently, half the people who suffer from blindness can have their sight restored with this simple procedure. Unfortunately, there is a lack of eye doctors in certain countries like Ethiopia and Nepal.
When the pair of physicians visited Nepal 30 years ago, the cheapest cataract lens cost a whopping $250. As the team started manufacturing the lenses locally, the price dropped to $25 per lens.
“Blindness is one of the neglected problems of global health but it’s also one of the few big problems that we can win,” said the co-founder of the organization. “From the first time I saw the miracle of cataract surgery on a totally blind patient, I realized that there is nothing else I can think of in the realm of medicine that is as cost-effective that we can do to really change lives instantaneously.”
The project has widely extended and currently operates in Ghana, Bhutan, India, Ethiopia, and a number of other countries. The clinic on average performs 200 cataract surgeries a day, each of which takes 4-20 minutes from start to end. After a 24-hour recovery period, patients can apply for a driver’s license vision test.
“The joy just comes through,” says Tabin. “The patches come off and it takes them a couple seconds to realize that they’re seeing … and then there’s this unbelievable smile.”