Blindness in Laos
Laos (officially known as Lao People’s Democratic Republic) is a southeast Asian country with one of the fastest growing economies in the world. However, the country continues to have a challenging healthcare situation. Laos has a small private health system, and wealthier citizens usually seek medical care outside of the country. Unfortunately, the majority cannot afford to do so, and many will never get treatment for their conditions.
In September 2017, the World Health Organization announced that Laos had eliminated trachoma, an eye infection that leads to blindness, as a public health problem. However, cataracts, glaucoma and corneal scarring are still big issues.
The IAPB reported that there is a serious shortage of ophthalmologists in the country, who cannot manage the high number of cataract cases. Also, about 80% of the population live in rural areas, where there is limited access to medical facilities. Due to its mountainous terrain, transportation is extremely difficult and many will not seek treatment. Outreach programs are the main source of treatment for eye conditions, which is why organizations like SEE International are incredibly important.
SEE in Laos
In 2017, Dr. Luc Janssens led a team in Oudomxay Province, where 50 patients received surgeries to remove their cataracts, thus giving their sight back. Of these patients, 3 were children.
SEE maintains a partnership with the Lao Rehabilitation Foundation, offering support for surgical cases. In response to the lack of resources in the country, SEE provides high-quality medical supplies for 50 cases, twice a year. This allows local ophthalmologists to be better equipped to see patients year-round.