The Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) announced recently that the eye care organization achieved a major milestone. Together with its collective network of partners around the world, the HCP has reached and surpassed over one million sight-restoring surgeries.
The Vermont-based nonprofit organization was founded twenty-five years ago by Drs. Geoff Tabin and Sanduk Ruit to eradicate unnecessary cataract blindness in the Himalayan region. Dr. Ruit, who NY Times writer Nicholas Kristof suggests, “may have cured more people of blindness than anyone in history,” pioneered a low-cost, high-volume surgical technique, which can be conducted in non-hospital settings.
Since its founding ,the HCP has reached needlessly blind people in the most remote and underserved areas of the world. HCP and its implementing partners have brought life-changing eye care to over 20 countries throughout Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with a continual focus on training local personnel, leveraging partnerships, and enhancing local eye care infrastructure.
“When someone is cured of cataracts, they are no longer a statistic. They are able to get their life back, Tabin said. “We have succeeded beyond my wildest expectations, but we still have a long way to go. When we started the HCP, there was an overwhelming cataract problem in Nepal which we thought would take a lifetime to overcome; and now there is a fully mature eye care system and ophthalmology training program. Our work has spread across the world. As we look ahead, there are still 17 million people in the world blind from cataracts. Blindness is a problem we can win - treatable blindness is low hanging fruit of global public health.”
Since 1995, HCP has supported and worked in concert with over 50 implementing partners in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa to eradicate preventable and curable blindness with a concurrent strategy of surgical outreach, training local personnel to build in-country eye care programs, and establishing eye care infrastructure to ensure sustainability of care. Twenty five years of investing in this successful model has allowed HCP and our partners to increase surgical volume and quality of care. In early 2020, through both all-partner and HCP-supported surgeries, the HCP passed the one million surgery mark.
To date, HCP and its network of partners have provided screenings and basic treatment to 12,631,504 people and performed over 1,015,992 sight restoring surgeries. During that same time, we have trained over 18,000 eye care professionals , including 552 ophthalmologists. The HCP has also worked to help build and equip four dedicated eye hospitals and training institutions.
When a person regains their sight, the impact extends well beyond each individual patient. Regained sight lifts families and communities out of poverty. The cost effectiveness and impact of treating blindness are known to be among the greatest in medicine - comparable to immunizations. With a material cost of $25, cataract surgery can restore sight and life to a blind person in 10 minutes.