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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Today is World Sight Day!

Mercy Ships Surgeon Addresses Blindness Through Sutureless Technique

Patients onboard Mercy Ship, Africa Mercy “Celebrate Sight” and World Sight Day

Cotonou, Benin, West Africa, October 8, 2009Four-year-old Celine was born with congenital cataracts in both eyes. Her father, a tailor, wanted the best for her. However, he could not afford the $180 (US) for surgery for each eye, plus the money required for hospital supplies in his country. Unable to begin school because she could not see, Celine faced an uncertain future.

A free five-minute cataract operation onboard the Mercy Ship has restored hope for Celine and more than 3,000 others. They are receiving cataract surgery onboard the Mercy Ship during the hospital ship’s 10-month stay in the port of Cotonou from February through December of this year.

Not only do approximately 150 patients each week participate in a “Celebrate Sight” event, but many more Africans are set to benefit from a new training program onboard the floating hospital. African ophthalmologists receive training in the specialized procedure to remove the very dense cataracts that are common in Africa.

According to Vision 2020, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, and 80% of blindness is treatable, curable or preventable.* Simple and effective strategies could address this inequity, claims Dr. Glenn Strauss. He gave up his eye practice in the US to serve fulltime with Mercy Ships as Senior VP of Health Care Initiatives with the charity.

Since 2004, Dr. Strauss has fine-tuned a procedure of cataract removal called MSICS (Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery). The technique, which has been developed in Nepal, India, and onboard the Mercy Ship, requires no sutures. It is also cost-effective and efficient, and it allows for a high-volume turnover of patients. Strauss says he can serve approximately 40 patients per day.

South African ophthalmologist Dr. Gcobane Tuswa has recently returned to Sabona Eye Hospital in Queenstown, East Cape to implement the new techniques learned from Dr. Strauss onboard the Africa Mercy. He states, “The knowledge he [Dr. Strauss] has to share is invaluable and will increase capacity to address blindness.”

Mercy Ships will also continue to run remote eye clinics throughout the year in Benin. Volunteer professionals will see more than 200 patients a day, thus expanding their service throughout local communities.

Watch a recent Mercy Ships “Celebration of Sight,” held for patients who have completed their final checkups in Cotonou, Benin: Click Here

Celine’s story can be seen by a Click Here.

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