Blindness in Liberia
Liberia is a country in Western Africa, bordering Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. It was initially established in 1822, as a colony for freed African American slaves. The settlers declared independence in 1847, and created a model of government based on the principles in the U.S. Constitution.
However, foreign investment in the country emphasized resource extraction exclusively, keeping it from developing economically. The Liberian people further suffered under a series of dictatorships and civil wars. Only with a 2003 peace deal has the country begun to stabilize.
Today, the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1% of Liberians, or roughly 35,000 people, suffer from blindness. Cataracts are the number one cause of blindness in the country, with an estimated 17,500 people affected, or 50% of the total blind population. An additional 3% of the total population, or 10,500 Liberians, suffer from visual impairment.
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare stated that it is committed to expanding its eye health care services by integrating them into county-level and school health services. However, over 50% of Liberia’s population lives in rural areas, where access to health facilities is limited.
SEE in Liberia
SEE has been hosting clinics to serve patients in Liberia for over 6 years. As part of our ongoing commitment to developing sustainable and high-quality eye care systems around the world, our volunteer ophthalmologists provide training in the Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) technique. In March 2017, the SEE team trained 15 medical professionals, screened 100 patients and performed 22 sight-restoring surgeries in Monrovia, Liberia. Training local doctors allows patients in the country to have access to advanced eye care year-round.
Through a partnership with the organization, Hands of Hope, SEE occasionally works in the city of Ganta to provide free screenings and surgeries. In 2018, SEE doctors will provide vital eye care and surgeries to treat approximately 50 cases of blindness.