In an attempt to aid the blind, ophthalmologists Dr. Geoff Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit founded the Himalayan Cataract Project. Their goal was to provide and implement adequate hospital quality standards in areas that do not always have basic electricity and water needs satisfied. The two aim to deliver the highest possible quality care for the lowest possible cost.
The prevalence of blindness in developing countries is astounding and, as explained by the Himalayan Cataract Project website, “malnutrition, inadequate health and education services, poor water quality, and a lack of sanitation leads to a high incidence of eye disease.”
According to the World Health Organization, individuals in sub-Saharan Africa are often afflicted with avoidable blindness caused by onchocerciasis (4 percent), childhood blindness (5.3 percent), trachoma (6.8 percent), corneal opacities (10 percent), glaucoma (15 percent), and cataracts (50 percent).
In developing countries, life expectancy for someone who is blind is less than half of that expected for a person of the same age who can see. The blind individual is no longer able to work and therefore, one income for the family is lost. The World Health Organization also states that “a conservative estimate of the annual direct economic productivity loss due to blindness and low vision in sub-Saharan Africa was U.S. $1,830 million in 2000. Without concerted international action, it is expected to rise to $4, 374 million per year by 2020, the equivalent of 0.5 percent of GDP for the region.”
The Himalayan Cataract Project is based in both the Himalayan region and in sub-Saharan Africa. They operate through teaching ophthalmic care at basic and advanced levels, establishing self-sustaining eye centers, and performing low cost sutureless cataract operations in 7 minutes. Moreover, their efforts to create self-sustaining eye centers involve building microsurgical eye clinics in rural communities and encourage these centers to reach out to the poor who are blind in order to provide them with the care they need. The Himalayan Cataract Project makes treating blindness both affordable and accessible to the wider masses in developing countries and communities.