Sight is being restored to people living in the remote northern provinces of Lao PDR as a result of work being done by The Foundation.

At Oudomxay, 16 hours drive by winding road from the capital, Vientiane, The Foundation is helping restore vision to people like Ying, an 80 year old grandmother from the Hmong ethnic group.

In October 2009, The Foundation-funded Oudomxay Provincial Hospital Eye Unit was completed. With further funding supplied for medical equipment, the new facility provides essential eye care services to the four northern provinces of Oudomxay, Luang Namtha, Phongsaly and Bokeo.

These provinces are considered to be amongst the poorest areas of the country, where the mountainous terrain and high levels of poverty continue to be significant barriers to accessing essential services.   

No longer able to contribute, Ying's blindness meant she had to rely on her family to complete even the simplest tasks.

"I just wish I was able to cook and clean for my family and help my children and grandchildren," she said.

Ying thought her blindness was a life sentence. At the age of 80, she never expected to see again. It wasn't until a health worker came to the village and told her that treatment for blindness was available at Oudomxay Hospital that she knew her sight could be restored.

After a relatively routine, 20 minute operation to remove her cataract, Ying was amazed at the results. Where the world was once a blur, she could now clearly see - the birds, trees and surrounding hills.

In developing countries such as Lao PDR, an operation to restore sight can cost as little as $25. Average life expectancy for those affected by blindness in the developing world can be just over five years.

Returning home, Ying was reunited with her family. Now able to take care of herself, Ying is delighted to have regained her vision and is overwhelmed to be able to see her grandchildren's faces once more.

Mr Phommalad Bouahome is The Foundation's Program Manager in Lao PDR.

"In Lao PDR The Foundation is getting on with the job of building a sustainable eye care system. We believe blindness in our country can be eliminated by 2020," he said.

In addition to serving as a surgical centre, it is hoped the new eye unit will also become a regional training headquarters for eye health workers, building up a strong eye health professional network in this remote area of the country. 

Achievements: 2009

Through our program work in Lao PDR, The Foundation:
  • Screened 5,505 people
  • Performed 573 cataract operations, and 121 other eye surgeries
  • Screened and diagnosed an additional 1,239 people, and prescribed spectacles
  • Distributed 600 subsidised spectacles as part of the refractive error screening campaign in 2 provinces
  • Held Inaugural Eye Health Professionals Workshop in Oudomxay Province - The Foundation's Medical Director, Dr Richard Le Mesurier provided on-the-ground training to 15 ophthalmologists
  • Supported ophthalmology residency training ophthalmologist in Thailand (2009-2010) - upon completion of his studies the ophthalmologist will be the only fully trained eye surgeon in his province. 

In 2010, an organisation called The Charitable Foundation will provide essential support to our work in Lao PDR, helping build a strong eye health service in the northern provinces.