Reaching the Unreached

The Himalayan Cataract Project’s Work Continues in South Sudan

The Himalayan Cataract Project’s efforts to support eye care in South Sudan date back to 2008, when two men from Duk County, South Sudan traveled to Nepal for 6-months of ophthalmic technician training at the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, at the suggestion of the John Dau Foundation. A few years later in 2011, HCP Co-Founder, Dr. Geoff Tabin and colleagues from the Moran Eye Center led a team to South Sudan to manage an eye care workshop at the Duk Lost Boys Health Clinic in Duk County, South Sudan with partners from the John Dau Foundation. The team provided 200 sight-restoring cataract surgeries and 100 trichiasis surgeries for trachoma in a village with no running water and no electricity. The youngest eye patient was 14 months old and the oldest was 92. Most patients were led in by sticks and walked away on their own. A second surgical outreach was scheduled in 2013 but was canceled due to political unrest. 

Fast forward to August 2018, when Jill Seamans, an American doctor who has lived and worked in South Sudan since 1989 with the non-profit South Sudan Medical Relief, requested support from HCP for a cataract surgical campaign in Old Fangak – 474 kilometers north of Juba. After months of planning, our clinical team of three ophthalmologists, six nurses and two ophthalmic assistants traveled from the U.S. and Ethiopia to work in both the northern village of Old Fangak and the southern capital of Juba, providing surgery as well as training to a small number of local clinicians. 

The trip was incredibly successful with over 800 sight-restoring surgeries performed, with our final numbers still to be calculated. The need is almost overwhelming, with Dr. Tabin reporting many bilateral cases saying, “It’s kind of biblical. No one was ever been cured of blindness here before. The entire community is buzzing about giving sight to the blind.” Many patients traveled from quite a distance to receive care, according to James Garrett, the team's head ophthalmic assistant, “One woman walked three days for successful bilateral cataract surgery. Another one walked 13 days!"

A special thank you to PROBAR who generously donated their delicious products to the team, which were essential as the group was in a place of food insecurity. 

HCP would also like to acknowledge Global Rescue for providing peace of mind through their evacuation and risk management services for this outreach event. Global Rescue is recognized as the world’s leading membership organization providing evacuation, medical, security and travel risk management services to individuals, families, enterprises and governments.

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