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Press Release: Clinton Foundation's Sustainable Growth Initiative Performs Milestone 5,000 Cataract Surgeries in Peru

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August is Cataract Awareness Month

New York, NY — Coinciding with Cataract Awareness Month, the William J. Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (CGSGI), which focuses on sustainable economic and social development in South America in partnership with governments, the private sector, nonprofits, and local communities, this summer completed 5,000 cataract surgeries throughout Peru. This important milestone is part of CGSGI’s goal of performing 50,000 cataract surgeries over four years throughout the country benefiting those who otherwise would not have access to or could not afford them. In July alone, CGSGI enabled a total of 892 surgeries.

In conjunction with Fundación Carlos Slim and the Peruvian Ministry of Health (MINSA), CGSGI’s cataract surgery program currently operates in 22 out of the 24 regions of Peru with the participation of 15 private health clinics. The partnership helps build the capacity of MINSA, and the surgical equipment used for the project includes portable equipment that will remain in the Peruvian healthcare system and enable remote surgeries for many years to come.

In 2007, MINSA reported 83,000 cases of untreated cataracts in Peru. In March 2009, CGSGI signed a memorandum of understanding with the SLIM Foundation and MINSA, committing to facilitate 50,000 surgeries for impoverished populations in Peru over the span of four years. Both CGSGI and the SLIM Foundation committed up to $5,000,000 to the program. This includes the delivery of surgeries to poor and remote areas where surgeries were previously unavailable.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the developing world, despite being preventable and relatively inexpensive to treat. In the developed world, on the other hand, blindness due to cataracts has been virtually eliminated. Cataracts create more than health problems for communities in Peru; many cannot afford the surgeries needed to have their cataracts removed and avoid the resulting blindness of untreated cataracts, leading to the loss of independence and economic productivity. The impact of the illness is further detrimental to the livelihoods of people in communities that are already economically depressed, including for family members whose economic options have been constrained by their need to be full-time caretakers.

The surgery is relatively inexpensive, non-intrusive and does not require general anesthesia. Patients typically require only a short recovery time and minimal post-surgery follow-up.

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