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June 4, 2012

Major cataract intervention — Over 1100 surgeries in 6 days

High-volume cataract event in Woldiya, Ethiopia.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Recap of a high-volume cataract eye care event in Woldiya, Ethiopia

Together with partners from three continents, the Himalayan Cataract Project managed a high-volume cataract event in Woldiya, Ethiopia, which provided over 1,100 sight-restoring surgeries in May. In addition to the local team, our medical team included partners from Nepal, the US and Ethiopia: Dr. Sanduk Ruit and a team from the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu, Nepal; Dr. Tilahun Kiros and a team from the Quiha Zonal Hospital in Mekelle, Ethiopia; and Drs. Geoff Tabin and Matt Oliva and a host of assistants from the Himalayan Cataract Project. Together the team operated for six days with four operating tables in constant use from dawn until dusk each day.

Woldiya was chosen for the intervention because it has one of the highest rates of bilateral blindness in Ethiopia. The patients had been pre-screened and identified in the months leading up to the intervention. With mules, vans and buses, the local team transported the patients to Woldiya during the surgical week. The patients were nearly all bilaterally blind before the intervention and the post-operative reactions were phenomenal.

The surgical intervention is part of a broader research initiative aimed at assessing the costs of blindness and the economic impact of cataract surgery. In 2011, HCP started working with the RAND Corporation to carry out a three-year initiative centered around the recent surgical intervention in Woldiya. The patients as well as a control group with inoperable cataract or other inoperable conditions will be followed over this period to measure the economic impact of the sight restoration.

In Dr. Geoff Tabin’s words, “Our patients have been incredibly joyous with phenomenal reactions. The scenes have been amazing with hundreds of patients ululating every morning at post op and shedding tears of joy.”

We believe this to be one of the largest cataract interventions in sub-saharan Africa to date. More patients are arriving each day and are being cared for by Woldiya's Dr. Alemu bringing the total closer to 1,200.

VIDEO: Watch a video from this high-volume cataract event. Follow the HCP team and its partners before, during and after conducting 1,100 surgeries in six days. Here we see a joyful patient after cataract surgery.