The World Health Organization estimates 39 million people are blind and 246 million have severe visual impairment: 90% of those affected live in developing countries. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in middle and low-income countries, but 80% of all visual impairment can be avoided or cured. This cure can come in the form of cataract surgery or by simply administering a pair of glasses.
Unfortunately, unequal access to eye care exists in Peru. Lima, the capitol city has approximately 25% of Peru’s population and yet 75% of Peruvian ophthalmologists work in Lima. When A Promise to Peru first implemented their program in 2010, physicians became aware of this problem when they discovered that a large number of mature cataract cases that existed in the remote Andes mountain villages. Their discovery inspired A Promise to Peru’s annual surgical campaign, in which they bring a portable, full-service eye and medical clinic and a portable operating room to rural Andean populations surrounding Urubamba.
Over the course of their two-week mission in June and July of 2014, they diagnosed and treated cataracts and other eye diseases as well as providing general healthcare to the communities: critical care, pediatrics, internal medicine, emergency medicine, gynecology and nephrology. In addition, they partnered with local Peruvian physicians, the Peruvian American Medical Society, and a local NGO, Fundación Niños del Arco Iris, to assist with identifying and transporting patients from remote towns to the main medical site in Urubamba, Peru.
In addition to providing surgical and medical aid, this program has an educational component. Graduate students involved in the program were able to initiate studies on pediatric malnutrition in rural Peru, and on the benefits of portable ultrasonography in the field. Likewise, medical students also held workshops for patients on topics such as dental hygiene, exercises to prevent lower back pain, and hand washing. Physicians from A Promise to Peru were also invited to participate in the 3rd International Health Symposium in the Sacred Valley, Peru at the Urubamba Hospital on July 3, 2014. Various physicians from A Promise to Peru gave lectures, which were well attended.
Thanks to the generosity of JetBlue, Airlink was able to help A Promise to Peru send 45 team members – doctors, nurses, technicians, medical students, and other medical personnel – to work on the 2014 mission in Urubamba.