According to the World Health Organization, "At least 2.2 billion people [around the world] have a near or distance vision impairment." Nearly half of those cases could have been prevented or haven’t even been addressed (who.int). One of the many humanitarian initiatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to provide vision care to individuals around the world. The Church often does this by supporting nongovernmental organizations who work to reduce vision impairment and blindness globally, including in West Africa. Together, we seek to increase access to vision care for people who don’t have it by providing ophthalmic equipment and training medical professionals.
By training eye care professionals and providing necessary equipment, the organizations we work with improve the quality of life for individuals in West Africa by providing them with the vision care they need.
Cataract Surgery for a Woman in Ghana
Esther is a 62-year-old single mother of five in Obenkrom, Ghana, and she was born deaf and speechless. Esther started having blurry vision three years ago, and as it progressed, she was unable to move or care for herself without the support of her 28-year-old daughter, Angelina. Her communication was greatly challenged with so many of her senses severely impacted. Angelina was the breadwinner of her family as a cocoa farmer but had to stop farming in order to care for her mother. The burden of raising money shifted to her younger siblings.
A miraculous visit to their village by a team from Father Thomas Allan Rooney Memorial Hospital changed everything for Angelina and her family. The team screened the people in the village and found out that Esther had developed bilateral cataracts. She was then quickly scheduled for surgery during a program led by the Himalayan Cataract Project.
Esther’s sight was restored after surgery performed by Dr. Bo. Esther and her daughter could not hide their joy with the outcome of the procedure. They expressed their deep gratitude to Dr. Bo and the Himalayan Cataract Project for their support. With her mother’s sight restored, Angelina now feels free to live her own life and support her family by returning to her work.
Vision Care in Liberia with Help from LVPEI
With additional support from the Church, the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) supports eye centers across the globe through mentoring and training local eye care professionals and providing needed equipment. In Liberia, Dr. Unity Honey Dokie Fahn and Dr. George Tamba Bornguoi became the first graduates of the Ophthalmology Residency Training Program. Because of this support, countries such as Liberia are able to get closer to self-reliance in eye care delivery.
A 26-year-old woman in a remote village near the border between Liberia and Sierra Leone experienced a sudden, profound vision loss in both eyes. She had been experiencing this for two weeks and was using home remedies made of plant juices to treat it. Because of her significant vision loss, she had to be escorted by someone to move around.
One of the leaders in her village had heard about the JFK Medical Center and brought the woman to the Liberia Eye Center (LEC) in the capital city at his own expense. A detailed examination revealed that the woman had developed glaucoma panuveitis in both eyes. She was also diagnosed with a rare parasite-related inflammation in both eyes and was put on the needed treatment plan.
Within a week of her eye treatments, her vision improved. When she went back for a follow-up, she was able to walk in by herself. The inflammation in her eyes had subsided, and she had already regained significant vision.
How Can I Help?
If you would like to join the Church’s mission to serve those in need of vision care, visit justserve.org to find local or virtual projects to participate in. Volunteering your time and energy can make a great difference in someone else’s life. For those looking to donate to the Church’s humanitarian efforts, please visit donate.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.