A Vision for Eliminating Blindness All Over the World

Written by Dr. Geoff Tabin, co-founder of the Himalayan Cataract Project and Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Director of the Division of International Ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah. He is also an accomplished mountaineer and is featured in the new book Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives.

The ululation of a formerly blind Ethiopian is an exaltation of pure joy. When the patch is first removed, there is an initial moment of uncertainty and blinking that yields to a gaze of amazement and wonder. Next, the face embraces an expression of rapture as pure as a baby focusing on her mother for the first time. A spontaneous grin widens into a full mouthed smile as broad and glowing as an African sunrise. When the lips can spread no further, out gushes the throaty vibration of the ululation. Family members rush to the patient, often with tears flowing down their cheeks. Not only is the patient freed from the fog of blindness but their caretaker is now released from the burden of caring for the sightless.

In 1995, my partner Dr. Sanduk Ruit and I co-founded the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP). HCP’s mission is to eradicate needless blindness through high-quality ophthalmic care, education and the establishment of world-class eye care infrastructure. The new book, Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives, chronicles our journey together and our dedication to bringing the highest quality cataract surgical care to the most destitute and remote populations in the world.

In poor countries, there is often little awareness that sight can be restored. When I began working in Nepal, there was a generalized acceptance that blindness was inevitable.

Forty million people in our world suffer from needless blindness, unable to carry out the simple tasks of daily living. Even though eighty-five percent of this blindness can be treated or could have been prevented, the vast majority will remain without sight until they die.

In the poorest places on our planet, the economic effects of blindness are severe. Blindness causes poverty, and poverty leads to lack of care and blindness.

However, sight restoration and blindness prevention are among the most cost-effective interventions in medicine. Utilizing intraocular lenses and pharmaceuticals manufactured in India and Nepal, the material cost for a sight restoring cataract surgery is less than 25 U.S. dollars. If you include the cost of screening, transportation of the patient and a caretaker to the hospital, feeding them for two days, all post-operative medications and follow up care, it is still typically less than 100 dollars.

While we cannot quickly and easily get rid of cancer or cure HIV, Malaria or Tuberculosis, half of all blindness in our world can be reversed overnight. A cataract surgery restores nearly perfect sight in one day that lasts the remainder of that person’s life. For people whose view of the world is a blur from a refractive error, a pair of glasses instantly gives sight. We have the tools. We have the system. It is time to ramp it up.

For more information, please visit cureblindness.org.

About Himalayan Cataract Project

The Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP), a nonprofit organization, works to eradicate preventable and curable blindness through high quality ophthalmic care, education and the establishment of world-class eye care infrastructure in developing countries. Today, HCP (www.cureblindness.org) reaches the most inaccessible patients wherever its services are needed through a combination of teaching ophthalmic care at all levels, establishing self-sustaining eye care centers and supporting partners to perform high quality, low cost cataract operations in 10 minutes with excellent outcomes.

Photo from Thinkstock


Jenny G
Jenny G3 months ago

How wonderful to be able to give the gift of sight!

Nelly Jen
Nelly Jen4 years ago

It is no longer news that the Acquired immune deficiency syndrome /Human Immuno Virus (HIV/AIDS) is increasing by the day. The fear is that many people living with the sickness are scared of saying it because of the stigma that comes along with it.
I am bold enough among many others to state that there is now a potent cure to this sickness but many are unaware of it. I discovered that I was infected with the virus 8yrs ago, after a medical check-up. My doctor told me and I was shocked, confused and felt like my world has crumbled. I was dying slowly due the announcement of my medical practitioner but he assured me that I could lead a normal life if I took my medications (as there was no medically known cure to HIV).
I went from churches to churches but soon found that my case needed urgent attention as I was growing lean due to fear of dying anytime soon.
In a bid to looking for a lasting solution to my predicament, I sought for solutions from the voodoo world. I went online and searched for every powerful trado-medical practitioner that I could severe, cos I heard that the African Voodoo Priests had a cure to the HIV syndrome. It was after a little time surfing the web that I came across one DR.ABEGBE (A powerful African Voodoo Priest), who offered to help me at a monetary fee. I had to comply as this was my final bus-stop to receiving a perfect healing. My last resolve was to take my life by myself, should this plan fail. Alas! it worked out well. He gave my some steps t

Monique R.
Monique R4 years ago

I had no idea there was such a high proportion of needless blindness around the world! I hope more specialists can join in to help these people see again.

holly masih
.4 years ago

thank you.hope you all the best with this.

Anastasia Z.
Anastasia Z4 years ago

I do hope this project will succeed. Good luck!

Mary T.
Mary T4 years ago

thanks for sharing, hope this will help a lot of people around the world

Julie D.
Julie D4 years ago

This is a wonderful project! I have always thought that blindness would be one of the worst afflictions of all. To be able to restore sight and to be able to do it so economically is fantastic.

Nimue Pendragon

stop women wearing all that gunk on their eyes couldn't hurt either

Peggy A.
Peggy A4 years ago

Thank you fro sharing!

Winn Adams
Winn A4 years ago

I'm so glad there are people that can help these people. Losing your sight is devastating.