Cataract Surgery - Bisidimo, Ethiopia

Eye care is one of the greatest public health challenges for the 21st century. Of the more than 39 million people worldwide suffering from unnecessary blindness, more than half are due to cataract – which can be surgically treated. Most of these people live in the
developing world, where poor nutrition and limited access to eye care can mean a life limited by needless blindness. Numerous studies have shown that sight restoration with cataract surgery is among the most cost-effective interventions in health care.

Ethiopia, with a population of nearly 97 million people has one of the highest rates of blindness in the world. The estimated overall burden of blindness in Ethiopia includes 1.6 million blind people and 3.6 million people with low vision, with cataract as the most common cause of both.
The Himalayan Cataract Project is hosting several cataract surgery campaigns each year. For one week a team from the nonprofit has set up operating rooms and they're offering free cataract surgery to anyone who needs it. During a week the organisation conducts more than 1000 sugeries - giving back sight, light and life to people who would otherwise never see again.


The Surgery

In order to enable such a high volume of cataract sugeries, a human assembly line of blind people are set up. The patients are being hurdled through the different stages of the cataract surgery. Getting their eyes checked and measured, having their eye lit cut, constantly eye drops, getting anaesthesia ending up at the actual surgery where there cataract are being removed and a clean 25 dollar lens are inserted.

Its modern technology meeting the developing world in a raw but effective manner. It´s intens, brutal and beautiful at the same time. Many of the patients are afraid and stressed. Its dark, noisy and smells like misery and hospital.
But this is utilitarianism at its best. It´s the only way possible. And everyone involved understand that and accept that.



The morning after surgery all the post-op patients gather on long benches in the hospital courtyard. Doctors and nurses move from one patient to the next, removing bandages. People who have lived in darkness, are seeing again - for the first time in years.
The reaction from the patientens are overwhelming. Some are looking curiously around trying to phanthom what just happened, others have religious callings and others again are just damn happy.



The People

To make the outreach a reality, everybody plays a part. The surgeons that remove the cataract. The health care personal that guide this enormous volume of blind people through the whole process. The patients and their many relatives. - Many who are living in deep poverty and travl far distances for the surgery.
They have a strong spirit these fantastic people.

The cataract surgery are literally bringing back light, dignity and life. One person getting their sight back from cataract surgery is awesome. It´s divine awesome. Multiply that with 300 surgeries per day and you have a week long mass medical miracle.

The price for a cataract surgery is just 25 dollars!