Venezuela Provides More than One Million Free Eye Operations to Latin Americans

The Venezuelan and Cuban health care program which performs free eye surgery for people around Latin America has treated over 1 million patients since 2004, according to data released by the Venezuelan government earlier this month.

A beneficiary of Miracle Mission (RNV)

The social program, known as Mission Miracle, is one of the many agreements signed between Cuba and Venezuela in the area of health care.

Completely free of charge, the program provides vision related surgery to low-income individuals who would otherwise not have the financial resources for these operations.

“Providing medical attention is a very important act”, said Noris Villalonga, Coordinator of Mission Miracle in the Venezuelan states of Lara, Yaracuy, and Portuguesa. “I think the value of providing the people with excellent care where there is quality and humanity is immeasurable”.

More than One Million Treated

According to official statistics, the exact number of patients treated by the Mission has reached 1,139,798 with an average of 5,000 operations occuring on a weekly basis in 74 medical centers around Venezuela.

“We travel all over our assigned regions to make diagnoses, so that underserved populations receive this attention becuase the costs of eye surgery are very high and there are people that don’t have the resources”, explained Villalonga.

In the first four months of 2010, the Mission has helped 101,112 people recover or repair their vision.

The majority of problems treated by the program include pterygium, cataracts, strabismus, retinopathies, glaucoma, myopia, ptosis, and difficulties in the cornea.

Health Care for Humanity

Although the vast majority of surgeries are performed on Venezuelans, residents from other Latin American nations have also benefited from the program.

This year, 3,398 operations have been performed on non-Venezuelans. Lida Segura is one of the 5,733 Ecuadorans who has been attended by the mission since 2005. Segura recently received an operation in the state of Lara and spoke about the difference that it will make in her life.

“I’m 82 years old and I haven’t been seeing well for some 4 years now in either of my eyes. When I can see well, I will go out again and for this I am really happy. Now I can already see clearer thanks to the operation”, she said.

“This has never happened…None of the earlier presidents cared about us, they only denied us assistance”, indicated Segura, thanking Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for the chance to receive the free medical assistance.

Another Ecuadoran patient, Frenda Villasilva, commented on the quality of care and the significance that improved eyesight will have for her.

“I have been treated better than in my own home. I’m 65 years old and you can imagine what it means to be able to see well at this age. To have 20-20 vision is to be practically reborn”, she exclaimed.

Residents of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay have all benefited from the free operations.

Last week, the Venezuelan National Assembly approved a law laying the groundwork for the program to reach the residents of El Salvador. Salvadoran doctors will evaluate eye-related illnesses and select patients who will then receive treatment in Venezuela.

During its initial phase, Mission Milagro was based in Cuba where 204,000 Venezuelans in need of care were sent for surguries. Venezuela is now the site of the operations where Cuban and Venezuelan doctors work side by side.

Of the over 900,000 operations that have been carried out in Venezuela, 570,902 have been performed by Cubans and another 368,643 has been performed by Venezuelans.

“I am a doctor and a health promoter”, declared Coordinator Villalonga. “For me it’s a great responsibility that I must assume with dignity. Health cannot be played with. And to be able to receive such a great number of our Latin American brothers and sisters is the most amazing thing because it integrates us more as a region”.