Cataract surgeries double in remote Lao PDR

Sight-restoring cataract surgeries more than doubled last year in the northern provinces of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR).

Because of The Foundation’s support, cataract surgeries in the Luang Namtha, Bokeo, Oudomxay and Phongsaly provinces rose to 911 last year, compared with 432 operations the year before.

More accessible and affordable eye care is needed to reduce a surgical backlog in Lao PDR, where around one per cent of the population is blind. Most cases are treatable. For two years, The Foundation has been investing in medical training, equipment and infrastructure in the poor, mountainous regions of the north.

“Sustainable health services cannot be built overnight,” said The Foundation’s CEO Brian Doolan. “But it is very encouraging to see this new program delivering results so quickly.”

“We expect the numbers to increase even further over the next few years as we support new eye projects in Lao PDR.”

Mrs Phoui comes from Oudomxay Province and is one face of the rising surgical rates. She recently received sight-restoring surgery, thanks to The Foundation’s supporters.

The mother of four lives near the Thailand border. Her family is one of the poorest in their small village. With a household to run, life is hard for Mrs Phoui anyway. But her diminishing sight increased the burden. When her sons were home, they could guide her. But when they were working, she was forced to crawl along the cement floor to find her way. She rarely went out.

“I felt very sad, and had little energy to do anything,” said Mrs Phoui.

The Foundation brought hope to Mrs Phoui and hundreds of others in the northern provinces when it opened the Oudomxay Eye Unit last year. She recently travelled to the town of Oudomxay to have her eyes examined at the unit by ophthalmologist Dr Phetsamone Indara. He discovered that while she was permanently blind in one eye, her vision loss in the other eye was caused by a cataract, which was treatable.

Dr Phetsamone operated on Mrs Phoui’s eye and successfully removed her cataract. She can now see clearly.

Having her sight restored has transformed Mrs Phoui’s life. Her sons no longer worry when she is alone. She is able to clean, prepare food, and leave the house to see friends in the village. She has achieved true independence.

>Learn more about our Lao PDR program.
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