Blindness in Peru
Peru is located in western South America and is home to Machu Picchu, the famous Inca citadel in the Andes Mountains. In the late 20th Century, Peru’s health care system collapsed due to an internal conflict that led to economic instability. Since then, the country has taken many steps to improve their current healthcare system. However, for the 40% of the Peruvian population still living in poverty, healthcare is almost impossible to afford. While cataracts is the main cause of blindness in Peru, increased sun exposure due to the high elevation causes a variety of other conditions. For example, pterygia, a condition that can cause blindness without proper treatment, is prevalent in people living in regions with sunny or windy climates. Indigenous peoples comprise about 45% of Peru’s population and mainly live in rural areas with little to no access to health care, let alone vision care. They often use traditional medicines to treat their illnesses, some of which can damage the eye permanently. Reaching these communities is very important so that they learn about proper care and that blindness is not a necessary part of the aging process, and thus seeking treatment. With over 620,000 Peruvians suffering from blindness the country is in high demand for more comprehensive eye care programs and training centers that focus on reaching the underserved and unaware communities. With the help of SEE and other international organizations, the plan is to increase surgical output and uptake to improve the overall outcome of eye care in the Peru.
SEE in Peru
SEE has been working throughout Peru for more than 15 years, serving the indigenous population and others in need. Clinic sites include: Huamachuco Ayacucho, Piura, Juliaca, Pisco, Calca, Coya and the Urubamba Valley. Every summer in Ayacucho, SEE collaborates with I Care San Antonio and Medical Ministry International to hold a two-week joint clinical and surgical program. During these clinics, surgeons from the US, Canada, and Peru perform primarily cataract and pterygium sight-restoring surgeries for hundreds of adults and children. In 2017, SEE provided vital eye care screenings to over 5,000 patients and performed a total of 336 sight-restoring surgeries. SEE volunteer surgeons treated patients with a variety of conditions including strabismus, cataract, pterygium, retina and other surgeries for the local adult and pediatric patients in need, providing advanced medical care that they might otherwise not have received.