Mercy Ships is promoting World Sight Day to bring attention to the immense number of blind and visually impaired people worldwide.
It is estimated that 285 million people suffer visual impairment — 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. With access to the type of eye care easily available in developed countries, 80% of the blindness and visual impairment could be prevented or cured in developing countries.
Cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness in middle-income and low-income countries.
Mercy Ships volunteer medical professionals have restored sight to the blind and improved low vision by giving over 33,000 free eye operations and more than 222,600 eye consultations since 1978.
“Mercy Ships makes a tremendous impact in serving the underprivileged who have been blinded by cataracts. Imagine the overwhelming sense of joy when these individuals are once again able to see their loved ones and the world after having their vision surgically restored,” remarked Dr Jim Singer, volunteer ophthalmologist with Mercy Ships. “It is nothing short of miraculous!”
Through a long-standing partnership of more than 25 years with Alcon, the global eye care leader, Mercy Ships has contributed to the sustainability of eye care in Africa by training African ophthalmologists. Through the Alcon Eye Fellowship, these surgeons return to their communities better equipped to restore sight to more patients. Additionally, Alcon products have been used by Mercy Ships to provide free surgeries to thousands of people in the nations we’ve served over the years.
One recipient of the gift of sight was a woman who went blind at the age of 15. She was abandoned by her husband at age 33 and left to care for her child alone. Pulcherie had never seen her baby, but she said, “I know her by the feel of her nose, her hands and the smell of her skin.”
When Mercy Ships docked in the Republic of Congo, Pulcherie heard about the free eye surgeries being offered. She came to the ship, where she was screened by Mercy Ships volunteer eye surgeons and scheduled for surgery. A 20-minute operation removed a dense cataract from her eye. When Pulcherie returned to her village, she saw her daughter for the very first time and declared, “She is so beautiful!” Later, she was able to find work to support her family.
The Mercy Ship is now sailing to Madagascar, where she will dock and provide free eye surgeries and other specialized surgeries for eight months. For more information visit: www.mercyships.org