Hundreds of ophthalmologists volunteered to help Cambodians with cataracts in a trip hosted by the Khmer Sight Foundation (KSF). Professor Sunil Shah, who works as a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Midland Eye in Solihull, organized this year's expedition.
Sea Ngu, Cambodia's secretary of state, and Dr. Kim Frumar, an Australian ophthalmologist, founded the KSF in 2015. This charity focuses on training local ophthalmologists and treating the thousands of Cambodians who have cataracts.
After Dr. Frumar's death in 2016, Dr. Shah became the KSF's international medical chairperson. Dr. Shah's first order of business was to create a massive Facebook campaign encouraging ophthalmologists to volunteer their services in Cambodia.
Shortly after he posted this advert on Facebook, over 120 ophthalmologists agreed to take the trip. Although most of the ophthalmologists were from the UK, there were a few others from nations like Singapore, Austria, and India.
Out of all these applicants, Dr. Shah chose 90 volunteers to accompany him to Cambodia. All of the doctors were split into different teams of seven, each of which works five-day shifts.
The visiting ophthalmologists get support from the local anesthetists and nurses. In the three-months they are in Cambodia, Dr. Shah believes his volunteers can complete at least 3,000 free cataract surgeries.
Mr. Ngu wants to ensure Cambodians in the most vulnerable areas of the country have access to the medical care provided by Dr. Shah's team. Bus transportation has been arranged for Cambodians living in rural areas to travel to Preah Ang Dung Hospital in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Once they arrive there, patients will receive a totally free cataract surgery.
Today, 28,000 Cambodians are blind. Of those 28,000, half are blind directly because of cataracts. To put this number into perspective, Cambodia now has a population of 15.9 million.
With an increasingly aging population around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) believes eye diseases like cataracts will soon become major global health issues. WHO has found that at least 51 percent of blindness cases around the world are due to cataracts. This translates to 20 million people.
The Kingdom of Cambodia is a Southeast Asian nation that borders Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Sadly, ever since the Khmer Empire fell in the mid-1400s, Cambodia has been ravaged by both colonialism and war. Although the country is starting to build itself up with textiles and tourism to Angkor Wat, it is still one of the poorest nations Asia.