Blindness in Guatemala
Guatemala is a Central American country that shares its northern border with Mexico. Although it has the biggest economy in Central America, it has one of the highest rates of inequality. Rural areas face extreme rates of poverty, malnutrition and maternal-child mortality. The health care system has partially recovered since the bloody civil war that took place from 1960-1996. However, it still faces serious problems. The poor have great difficulty accessing and affording basic medical care. Modern healthcare facilities are only located in urban areas, so those living in the outskirts rely on poorly equipped clinics or traditional healers. When those living in rural regions develop a serious condition, it is extremely difficult to travel to cities to see a specialist.
In 2016, Guatemala became the fourth nation in the Americas to eliminate river blindness, also known as onchocerciasis. Unfortunately, blindness is still a huge health problem, especially with the poor. The leading cause of blindness is cataracts. A study published on the National Center of Biotechnology Information reported that the main barriers to receiving treatment were lack of knowledge that treatment was available, not being able to afford surgery, and fear of surgery.
SEE in Guatemala
In 2017, SEE hosted several clinics in the country, providing essential eye care services to over one thousand Guatemalans. During a SEE program in January 2017, 900 patients received screenings and 15 patients received sight-restoring surgeries that removed their cataracts. Eye screenings are necessary for early detection of refractive errors and ocular diseases, thus lowering cases of preventable blindness.
SEE is committed to delivering high-quality eyecare to underserved citizens in Guatemala throughout the year.