The main barrier to accessing cataract surgery in Cambodia is affordability, which is why the pro-bono surgeries that our doctors provide on SEE’s programs are so vital to fighting blindness.
SEE has been restoring sight to the blind in Cambodia since 2005. Each year, SEE hosts about five clinics in Phnom Penh, the country’s capital and most populous city. During these programs, our team of volunteer doctors restore sight to around 200 Cambodians, primarily children, and screen over 600 patients. Since 2017, SEE has organized 12 programs in Cambodia, performing almost 900 sight-restoring surgeries and serving over 2,100 patients.
Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia, bordering Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Much of Cambodia’s medical infrastructure was destroyed during the devastating rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. In the years that followed, Cambodia, in conjunction with international NGOs, worked to rebuild and provide medical care throughout the country.
Despite the Cambodian government’s best efforts, there are only 38 ophthalmologists for a population of 15 million, leaving over 40,000 who are completely blind. Additionally, another 57,857 Cambodians suffer from severe visual impairments.
Cambodians over the age of 50 are especially likely to be blind. The prevalence of blindness in that segment of the population is as high as 2.8 percent, compared with 0.38 percent in the general population. The leading cause of blindness in the country is cataracts, which are preventable and easily reversible with a low-cost, thirty-minute surgery.