Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New hope in sight for children with eye diseases

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New hope in sight for children with eye diseases

Liu Chang, 4, with his eye mask off, after surgery to remove his cataracts. [China Daily]

As soon as his eye mask is taken off, 4-year-old Liu Chang extends his arms to his mother.

For the first time in a long time, he is able to see her face. And then he sees the candy next to her.

"It's Alpenliebe!" he exclaims, grabbing the sweets, which seem like a great comfort after his eye surgery.

Everyone in the ward laughs. They are happy to see the little boy's joyfulness.

Liu has already undergone two other operations for his congenital cataracts.

When his mother took him to Dalian He Eye Hospital in Liaoning province this April, the family from a rural part of the province could hardly afford an operation.

So the hospital did it for free. And hundreds of other underprivileged children suffering from eye diseases in northeast China will soon get the same chance. That's because the hospital announced on Sept 13 the launch of a project to open a regional pediatric eye care center.

The project is funded by Standard Chartered Bank and supported by ORBIS International, a global non-profit organization dedicated to sight saving.

According to He Wei, chairman of He Eye Care System, the three-year program is dedicated to providing quality pediatric eye care and cataract services in Dalian and the surrounding areas in Northeast China. "There are more than 50,000 children suffering from eye diseases in this area," he said at the launching ceremony.

Children participants can get free ophthalmologic examinations for early diagnoses, enabling early treatment to avoid unnecessary blindness, he says.

Patients from low-income families can enjoy remission of operation fees, he adds. "More importantly, we will conduct high-level training programs for doctors and raise awareness about eye care among parents," He says, adding that few local oculists treating children are professionally trained.

"We are happy to partner with Standard Chartered and ORBIS again following our successful partnership in the Shenyang Project in 2004," He says.

This is the newest franchise of Standard Chartered Bank's Seeing is Believing campaign, a sight-saving project in China.

The company says Seeing is Believing has raised more than $17 million and helped more than 2 million people around the world restore their sight since 2003.

"Through the initiative, millions of people are receiving vital eye care and lives are being transformed beyond measure," says Paul Forrest, director of the Global Development of ORBIS International.

ORBIS is committed to establishing a network of eye care centers around the world, he says.

"Last year alone, an estimated 140,000 children had their sight restored in China," Forrest says.

As part of the project, he says, the Flying Eye Hospital will come to Dalian next March. One hundred children with eye diseases from Northeast China and Inner Mongolia will get treatment from top ophthalmic doctors and experts with ORBIS.

taken from : China Daily

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