The Fred Hollows Foundation has held its most successful eye screening and surgery intensive in Lao PDR – reaching over 8,400 people in just two months. 

For people living with blindness in the remote villages of northern Lao PDR, it can be almost impossible to get to a medical unit for eye surgery.

To meet this need, The Foundation supports outreach services that take the necessary medical staff and equipment for surgery and disease detection to the people.

A few months ago, letters were sent to the chiefs of 300 villages in northern Lao PDR letting them know that screenings would soon take place in their communities.

Soon after, 11 teams of eye health workers, supported by The Foundation, began travelling from village-to-village, screening everyone over the age of 50 for cataract and other blindness-causing conditions. Over just two months, more than 8,400 people had their eyes tested in villages and local district eye hospitals.

People identified with cataract and other treatable conditions were then referred on to the district hospitals, where The Foundation had set up makeshift operating clinics.   

Braving difficult weather conditions and mountainous terrain, many patients travelled for up to two days to reach the operating clinics. In the first month, 235 sight restoring surgeries were performed, including 161 cataract operations. In addition, 131 pairs of spectacles were distributed. These figures are expected to rise significantly over the coming days as surgical results from the second month are reported.

Although The Foundation’s program in Lao PDR is still relatively new, it continues to grow and reach more people each year. Thanks to the generosity of Australians and partner organisation The Charitable Foundation, last year sight-restoring surgeries in the northern provinces doubled and over 200 community eye health workers were trained. This boost in human resources makes large-scale screenings and surgical intensives possible, ensuring the country continues to build its eye health capacity.

Learn more about The Foundation's work in Lao PDR.