New Visions

Inexpensive cataract surgery is restoring sight in South Asia

In February, Raj Kaliya Dhanuk lay on an operating table in Nepal with weights on her eyes, preparing to undergo cataract surgery. The weights help reduce pressure within the eyeballs before surgery, which makes the procedure easier. During the operation that followed, Sanduk Ruit, the co-director of the Himalayan Cataract Project, removed Dhanuk’s clouded ocular lenses, the structures in the eye that focus light, and replaced them with synthetic ones. Last year, Ruit and his colleagues, including project co-director Geoff Tabin, performed 200,000 cataract surgeries in Nepal. Since the HCP’s conception in 1994, the team has trained hundreds of doctors and equipped the region with the technology to financially sustain the project; high-quality lenses made at the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology are exported to other countries to help offset the cost of surgery to Nepal’s poor. Tabin is now implementing the same model in sub-Saharan Africa, which he expects to be as successful as the Nepal project within a decade.