Sydney cataract team set sight on the Philippines

On 25 April a team of five eye health volunteers from Sydney will be travelling to Adventist Hospital Santiago City, Philippines to perform sight saving cataract surgery on some of the estimated 400,000 people suffering from curable blindness in the Philippines.

The team is part of an ongoing eye health partnership between two Sydney overseas aid charities, Foresight Australia and Open Heart International (OHI). This will be the fourth cataract surgery trip undertaken by the partners to the Cagayan Valley region.

“Cataract is by far the major cause of easily curable blindness worldwide”, says team Ophthalmologist and Foresight Director A/Professor Geoffrey Painter.

“While the data around cataract is incomplete, it is estimated that, in the Cagayan Valley area, the rate of vision impairment due to cataract is 4.94%, double the country’s average and surgery is the only way to treat these patients” he says.

This is why Foresight and OHI have committed to providing additional capacity to increase the cataract surgical rate in the region in partnership with the Adventist Hospital Santiago City and the local Chapter of the Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology.

The project also provides a response to some of the barriers to cataract surgery in the region such as pre-screening testing, transportation and accommodation. Some of the long-term project goals include nursing and allied health worker training, skills transfer and further integration of the project into the local ophthalmology community.

ShariaDuring last year’s visit the team met 5 year-old, Sharia. She lives two hours drive from Santiago City with her two other siblings and her mother and father. Her mother had noticed something wrong with her eyesight but with a family wage of just $8 a day, they could not afford the operation Sharia needed. When they learnt that our cataract surgery team was visiting the area they came to the hospital to ask for help.

One day after her surgery Sharia could see and count the fingers of someone three meters away from her, a great result so soon after surgery. We hope that as she grows she’ll have a more normal life due to the surgery that was performed.

“Blindness has such a profound human and socioeconomic consequence in all societies. As eye health professionals we have an opportunity to cure blindness and make a permanent difference by empowering communities with the skills, tools and education they need to prevent blindness into the future,” says A/Professor Painter.

“To anyone that can support our work in even the smallest way, we are truly grateful,” he says.