Venezuela Boosts Mission Miracle Eye Surgery Program

The Venezuelan government is to re-launch the eye surgery program Mission Miracle as part of a strategy to continue improving the humanitarian program’s reach and performance.

By Ewan Robertson - Correo del Orinoco International
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Mission Miracle was launched with Cuban support in 2004 (Luis Laya)
Mission Miracle was launched with Cuban support in 2004 (Luis Laya)

Born from a health cooperation agreement with Cuba, Mission Miracle offers free eye surgery and optical care to low income Venezuelans and those in need from across Latin America.

The “re-launch” of the program involves installing new medical-surgical equipment and supplies in centers where optical operations take place, establishing workshops for the fabrication of lenses and glasses, and creating a statistical center to produce a register of patients attended and those requiring treatment.

A plan will also be developed to continue training ophthalmologists and optometrists in Venezuela, and to design and implement preventative policies for sight problems.

In a meeting of government ministers on Monday to plan the new stage of Mission Miracle, Vice President Jorge Arreaza referred to the program as “one of Comandante Hugo Chavez’s favorite children”.

“It’s such a beautiful mission, because it receives patients that have a disability or sickness and in many cases it allows them to recover their vision, [and] evade or prevent an illness later on,” Arreaza continued.

Another decision taken at the meeting was to set up a new directive council for the running of the Mission Miracle Foundation, which will be headed by Rosa Virginia Chavez, late President Hugo Chavez’s daughter. “Soon a commission to link together different health institutions will be installed, to promote Mission Miracle more deeply,” Arreaza explained.

When Mission Miracle was first launched in 2004, Venezuelan patients were taken to Cuba under a solidarity-based healthcare agreement. From 2005, under the Sandino Compromise signed by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, Venezuela developed the capacity to offer the program in its own public healthcare facilities.

The same agreement also established the Comprehensive Community Medicine program in Venezuela. Over 14,000 new community doctors have graduated from the program so far and are now working in public hospitals across the country. There are plans to train a total of 45,000 new doctors as part of the expansion of Venezuela’s public healthcare system.

According to official data, since its founding in 2004 the Miracle Mission has attended to over 1.2 million patients with free eye surgeries. The majority of these were Venezuelan, with patients from Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Chile, Paraguay and Argentina also receiving treatment.

Official sources report that in the program’s new stage, as part of the mission’s “internationalist spirit” patients from African countries will also be treated.

“We’re proud to move forward with an idea that the Comandantes Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez had,” explained Arreaza.

“[The Miracle Mission] is a tribute to Hugo Chavez, it’s part of his legacy, and the peoples of Venezuela and…Our America can be sure that we’re going to continue forward, not only with the greatest love and dedication possible, but with detailed and scientific criteria to be able to create the greatest sum of happiness possible through our missions,” continued the Vice President.

Meanwhile Minister of Health, Isabel Iturria, said that the expansion of Mission Miracle demonstrated advances in healthcare provision in Venezuela, which could also be seen in areas such as dental care and child cardiology.

“In areas where the Venezuelan people never had the possibility of access [to healthcare], now we’re advancing in a significant manner, and with the capacity to offer it to brother countries,” she stated.