A sight-saving mission

Ophthalmic surgeon takes team to Cambodia to offer free eye care in a country where 28,000 people go blind every year

A child with cataracts in Cambodia

A consultant ophthalmic surgeon from Solihull has travelled to Cambodia as part of a charitable mission offering free vision screening and cataract surgery to those in need.

Midland Eye’s Professor Sunil Shah organised the project on behalf of the Khmer Sight Foundation (KSF), a charity established in 2015 to provide free cataract surgery to people in need.

Founded in partnership by Australian ophthalmologist, Dr Kim Frumar, and Cambodia’s secretary of state, Sea Ngu, the charity was established to focus on Cambodia as half of the country's 28,000 people who are estimated to go blind annually do so as a direct result of cataracts.

Professor Shah became involved in the charity after its co-founder Dr Frumar passed away in April 2016 and was appointed international medical chairperson for KSF earlier this year.

Appealing for volunteers via social networking site Facebook, Professor Shah was seeking ophthalmologists who were willing to travel to Cambodia this year to provide their services for free.

Speaking about the appeal, Professor Shah, told OT: “Some 120 people responded, primarily from the UK, but also Germany, Austria, Italy, Singapore and India.”

As a result of the “overwhelming response,” a team of 90 volunteers are travelling to Cambodia this year to offer free eye care services. Split into groups, the ophthalmologists aim to provide 3000 free cataract surgeries over a three-month period.

Talking about the project, Professor Shah explained: “Each team undertakes five day shifts and usually comprises seven ophthalmologists, supported by their own volunteer support staff together with local volunteers, ophthalmologists, anaesthetists and nurses.”

Getting treatment

Ensuring that the most appropriate people receive access to the free treatment, Mr Ngu is organising vision screening for potential patients in local villages, Professor Shah confirmed.  

Patients in need are then transported by bus to Preah Ang Dung Hospital in Phnom Penh for surgery.

With some volunteer groups having already travelled to the country to offer their services, in May the Foundation saw 500 patients and provided 207 cataract operations.

For more information on the charity, visit its website