HCP Performs First-Ever Outreach in Eritrea

The fight against needless blindness in Eritrea received a boost this month with new allies, tools and training being deployed in the country by the Himalayan Cataract Project and partners from Ethiopia and Nepal.

The work of HCP and its partners could be seen in full effect from Nov.11-15 during HCP’s first surgical outreach event in the country. At no cost to the patients, HCP, in coordination with Federal Health Ministry, performed 1,320 cataract surgeries that returned the gift of sight, while also providing exposure and skills transfer for ophthalmic teams during the high-volume cataract campaign method.

HCP works to overcome barriers impeding the delivery of cataract care to needlessly blind people in under-resourced communities. Since its founding in 1995, HCP and its network of over 100 partners have performed over 940,000 sight-restoring surgeries across the globe.

“It was a magical week,” HCP board member and volunteer ophthalmologist Dr. Matt Oliva said. “Many of the patients were bilaterally blind. The outreach brought together ophthalmic teams from the US, Ethiopia, Nepal and Eritrea, all focused on delivering high-quality eye care.”

At the core of HCP’s success is its long-standing partnership with the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Together, HCP and Tilganga have dramatically improved eye care by creating a proven delivery model worthy of worldwide replication helping result in a 59% reduction in the prevalence of blindness in the country.

Over the last 13 years, HCP has worked to bring this model of high-quality eye care to sub-Saharan Africa, strengthening eye care systems in Ghana and Ethiopia and performing outreach events in more than eight sub-Saharan countries.

In October, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for improving his country’s relations with Eritrea. As tensions on the border have thawed, access between the neighboring states has improved, allowing HCP to work more closely with Eritrean ophthalmologists in Eritrea as well as creating opportunities for Eritrean ophthalmologists to train in Ethiopian residency programs.

“This model of success was born out of our work in Nepal at Tilganga.” HCP CEO Job Heintz said. “We were fortunate to have Tilganga CEO, Dr. Reeta Gurung there with two ophthalmic nurses and our outreach team from Ethiopia led by pediatric Ophthalmologist Dr. Sadik Taju Sherief.We had this amazing opportunity where ophthalmic teams from three continents were working together with a shared purpose of restoring sight of the needlessly blind.”