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The majority of people who are blind in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, don’t have to be. They face many barriers to having their sight restored. Eye health services and personnel are in short supply and are difficult to reach for many. Lots of people cannot afford the lost wages and cost involved in a journey to the hospital. Others fear surgery or are simply unaware of treatment. Lao PDR is one of the world’s least developed countries, ranked 139 out of 184 countries on the UN’s 2014 Human Development Index. People are blind because they are poor and poor because they are blind. Ensuring people can access primary eye care requires a small investment, but delivers significant returns by allowing people to return to work, education and other productive activities. The Fred Hollows Foundation is working to end the cycle of poverty caused by avoidable blindness.
80% of blindness in Lao PDR is avoidable. 10,000+ people are blind from cataracts which can be treated through straight-forward, cost-effective surgery.
A dispersed population and widening wealth gap are challenges to providing affordable eye care in Lao. Lao’s rugged mountains and lush river valleys are some of the country’s greatest wonders, but they also hinder the delivery of crucial eye services.
There is a critical shortage of eye health personnel across the country. The Foundation is training ophthalmologists, basic eye doctors and nurses to fill the shortages at the provincial, district and village levels. We are training village health volunteers to educate the community about eye health and available treatments. We are supporting the National Ophthalmic Centre so it can play a leadership role in eye health workforce development in Lao PDR. By increasing the number of eye care professionals and their level of skill, we are able to reach more people, and help provide better quality eye health services.
The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Sustainable Comprehensive Eye Care Project takes a comprehensive and sustainable approach to addressing this gap. In 2015, The Fred Hollows Foundation expanded its work to Luang Prabang, Xayabouly and Vientiane Provinces and is now working to end avoidable blindness in seven Northern provinces.
In 2015, funding to Lao supported the following achievements:
Investing in People
1,635 people trained, including:
Helping People See
26,507 people screened, including 5,250 children. 18,642 eye operations and treatments performed, including:
Eye health promotion videos and soundtracks produced for 3 provinces to raise awareness and increase the eye health knowledge in remote communities.
5,250 children attended eye health education in primary schools across seven provinces
Subsidized Cataract surgery for twin children in Bokeo Province was conducted by the ophthalmologists from Oudomxay, Bokeo and supported by the doctors from Mahosot Hospital.
Seven-month-old identical twins, Samlan and Sintham, were born blind from cataract. They had never seen more than a vague blur of colour and were destined to a life without vision. Thankfully, surgeons at an eye-camp run by The Foundation saw the clouding in the babies’ eyes and knew they could be treated.
After a harrowing two-day journey to the closet hospital, Northern Lao’s only ophthalmologist performed the most delicate and nerve-wracking operations of his life.
The day after the operation, when the patches came off, the mood was electric. Every one watched nervously as Dr Phetsamone moved a bright-red car in front of the twins. Their eyes followed the surgeon’s hand.
Samlan and Sintham could see!
The Fred Hollows Foundation is able to perform miracle after miracle, due to the generous support of our donors.
There is always more work to be done as we strive to end avoidable blindness. The Foundation relies on the continued support of our generous donors to achieve Fred’s dream of a world where no one is needlessly blind.
In 2016, the Sustainable Comprehensive Eye Care Project will con-tinue to build and extend to work in 10 provinces to improve the quality and access to eye health care in rural and remote areas of Northern Lao. Activities include training more surgeons, nurses and community health workers, continuing to conduct outreach oph-thalmology services and expanding the promotion and education of eye health throughout the community.
Interested donors should contact The Foundation directly.