China's Cataract Eradication Project Brings Hope for Better Life to Patients in Developing Countries

A Chinese doctor (R) examines a patient who suffers from cataract at a hospital in Prey Veng province, Cambodia, Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by Liao Hongqing/Xinhua

PREY VENG, Cambodia -- Duk Sarun, a 68-year-old Cambodian cataract patient, was thrilled to see the beautiful world again on Sunday after having her cataracts in both eyes removed free-of-charge by a team of Chinese ophthalmologists.

A native to Prey Veng province in southeast Cambodia, the mother of five children said the surgery was a life-changing moment for her after she had lived in blindness for many years due to the lack of money for a surgical treatment.

"I don't have any money to treat my eye disease, and when I heard that the Chinese doctors have provided free cataract surgery, I'm elated and have come for this surgical treatment," Sarun told Xinhua on Sunday after having had a gauze pad removed from her left eye a day after surgery at the compound of the Prey Veng Provincial Referral Hospital.

"After the surgical treatment, my eyesight has been restored, but vision is not absolutely clear yet because it is still very new," she added.

Sarun was the 10,000th patient globally and the 3,138th patient in Cambodia to benefit from free-of-charge cataract surgery performed by Chinese ophthalmologists under the China's GX Foundation-backed Cataract Blindness Eradication project.

The project has been carrying out in five countries across Asia and Africa, including Cambodia, Laos, Djibouti, Mauritania and Senegal.

In Cambodia, the three-year project was launched in September 2022, aiming at regaining vision for some 10,000 cataract patients in Prey Veng province by September 2025.

Sarun, who is a farmer living about 50 km far from the Prey Veng provincial town, said the project has brought a ray of hope for a better life for poor cataract patients in rural areas.

"I wish all Chinese doctors good health and longevity so that they can provide treatment to other patients," she said.

In Cambodia, a surgery on one-eye cataract at hospitals or clinics costs 300 to 500 U.S. dollars, the amount which is hardly afforded by poor and rural dwellers.

Another 53-year-old Cambodian farmer Khom Pov said she had cataracts in both eyes, which required a surgical treatment to regain her sight.

"After a surgical treatment, I can see now, although my vision is not totally restored, it's much better than before when I was totally blind," she told Xinhua.

"I saw that the doctors were very professional, equipped with sufficient medical equipment and supplies, so I had cataracts on both eyes removed. I'm very happy to see again," the mother of two children said.

Pov said previously, due to blindness, she dared not walk away from home, but now, it's a life-changing moment as she can move wherever unaided.

Under the project, the GX Foundation has dispatched a team of Chinese eye doctors, together with two mobile eye treatment centers and a 35-seat bus, to give free cataract surgery to patients in Prey Veng.

Ophthalmologist So Sopanhavatei, director of the Prey Veng Provincial Referral Hospital, said the project has greatly benefited cataract patients in the province.

"To date, more than 3,000 patients have undergone cataract surgeries under this project at the hospital," she told Xinhua.

"The GX Foundation's free cataract surgery project in Cambodia is good and crucial to help cataract sufferers regain their eyesight and prevent them from blindness," she added.

Speaking of the project carried out in five developing countries, Sopanhavatei said it is essential for patients because they get free cataract surgeries and have their vision restored, and they can return to a normal life.

Ophthalmologist Lu Huawen, leader of the eight-member Chinese medical team from Wuzhou Gongren Hospital, said more than 98 percent of patients' vision had improved a lot after surgery.

She added that some patients' vision may not see a significant enhancement because of their eyes' other underlying eye conditions, but the majority of the patients are highly satisfied with the results.

"I feel extremely proud and honored to be a part of this aid project," she told Xinhua.

"We come here to assist with treating local cataract patients, which will significantly improve their vision and directly enhance their life quality. Our help has an immediate and positive impact on the patients' future lives and work." she added.

Lu said, through this medical aid project, they have addressed these patients' difficulties, and the patients have felt the help, warmth and thoughtfulness from the Chinese medical team.

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