For over 10 years, SEE International has been participating in a program called Cataratón in Panama. During this 2-day marathon, local and international volunteer ophthalmologists perform back-to-back sight-restoring surgeries at the Centro de Cirugia Ocular. In 2017, the SEE team was led by Dr. James Burcham, and 119 patients received free surgery and vital eye care.
Additionally, in 2017, SEE hosted a clinic in the city of Darien, where the team provided essential eye screenings to 1,800 patients and completed 253 sight-restoring surgeries. Since then, SEE has organized a total of 9 programs in Panama, performing over 1,500 surgeries and serving almost 6,000 patients.
Panama is the southernmost country in Central America. It has been experiencing the highest economic growth in all of Latin America, but unfortunately, the healthcare system is still very inefficient and inaccessible to the majority of Panamanians. Modern medical facilities are only available in the capital of Panama City, creating severe challenges for those living in rural areas when they seek treatment for serious conditions.
Additional barriers to healthcare accessibility in Panama are poor education and low levels of public awareness. Many Panamanians do not know that some conditions of blindness are treatable, like cataracts, glaucoma, and pterygium. 66.4% of all blindness cases in Panama are due to unoperated cataracts. Sadly, most will not seek treatment and continue living needlessly blind.