In just five days, one Cambodian eye surgeon and his team screened 1,136 people and restored sight to 189 patients in Phnom Penh. 

Cambodians travelled from more than 15 provinces to be tested and treated for a range of eye diseases at the first free surgical intensive offered by the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, a new partner of The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Dr Ny Tharath and three ophthalmic staff screened 1,136 people who came to the hospital's eye unit to identify those needing treatment. The surgeon then performed 142 cataract operations and 47 other sight-restoring surgeries.

Dr Tharath was trained through the Ophthalmology Residency Training Program, established and supported by The Foundation. Thanks to his training, as well as the donation of a microscope by The Foundation, the hospital is able to offer patients eye surgery for the first time. Previously, its team of mid-level eye health staff could only perform consultations and had to refer patients for surgery elsewhere.

The surgical intensive was publicised by Dr Tharath in an interview on Radio Free Asia, on a news program broadcast across the whole of Cambodia. The response was overwhelming, prompting people to travel - some for hundreds of kilometres - to receive treatment. Some travelled from as far as the Rattanakiry Province as well as the Kratie, Preah Vihear and Banteay Mean Chey provinces.

The surgeries not only restored sight, but also self-sufficiency and dignity. Those treated can now return to work to provide basic necessities for their families. Children who once had to stay at home to care for a blind parent can now return to school and receive an education.

The Cambodian program has come a long way since it began a decade ago. Back then, there were only seven ophthalmologists to serve the entire population. In the last four years, The Foundation has supported training for 11 ophthalmologists who can now help reach the estimated 129,000 Cambodians living with avoidable blindness.

The Fred Hollows Foundation receives funding through the Australian Government's Avoidable Blindness Initiative to reduce avoidable blindness in seven provinces of Cambodia and the municipality of Phnom Penh.

Learn more about The Foundation's Cambodia program.