Mission Miracle, a wonderful gift to humanity from Venezuela and Cuba
By Arthur Shaw
Jul 6, 2007, 10:16
Mission Miracle, the three-year old Venezuelan-Cuban anti-blindness program initially for Latin America and the Caribbean, has already restored the sight of about 700,000 people from 30 countries and aims to restore the sight of about 6,000,000 blind people in the region by 2015.
The services that Mission Miracle offers to its patients are free.
Mission Miracle has drawn quite of bit of attention from the revolutionary and progressive media. With only a handful of exceptions, the bourgeois media, both in Latin America and the USA, have largely ignored the astonishingly successful ophthalmologic program. Ironically, it is the extreme reactionary sector of the US bourgeois media that shows the most interest in the program.
One of the partial exceptions to this non-coverage or bigoted coverage of Mission Miracle in the bourgeois media is John Otis’ piece in the Houston chronicle, a moderate bourgeois newspaper, which gives a surprisingly factual account of the tremendous success of Mission Miracle with the customary or inescapable anti-socialist bias, mandatory in the capitalist press, largely held in the background of the story.
The Mission Miracle has, among others things, medical, political, and moral sides.
Medical side of Mission Miracle
According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 37 million people in the world who have lost their sight as a result of preventable causes; of these, more than a million and a half are children below the age of 16.
The prevalence of preventable blindness varies in relation to the level of economic development in each country. While in highly developed capitalist countries, blindness hovers at 0.25%. In poorly developed capitalist countries with insufficient health care services, this figure can reach 1% of the populace.
In Third World countries, which are mostly poorly developed capitalist countries, the main causes of blindness are cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, infectious diseases such as trachoma and onchocerciasis, and Vitamin A deficiencies. Other ophthalmologic diseases such as pterygium, ptosis and strabism are very frequent in both children and adults.
Since cataracts are the cause of more than 50% of preventable cases of blindness in the world, one must perform between 2000 and 4000 cataract operations for each million people annually if one wishes to gradually eradicate this disease.
Glaucoma causes 15% of the blindness in the world. Between 1 and 2% of the world population suffers from this disease, and these figures double in black populations. These cases require a high percentage of filter or trabeculoplasty laser surgery.
On July 5, 2004, the Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez agreed to start Mission Miracle to aid patients with eye diseases, as a result of the complaints from many workers in the joint Venezuelan-Cuban literacy program in Venezuela about many of their students whom they were trying to teach to read but who couldn‘t even see, according to John Otis’ article in the Houston Chronicle.
In the early days of the program in 2004, Cuba mostly supplied the experts and Venezuela mostly the money for Mission Miracle, but today Venezuelan doctors, many educated at Cuban medical schools or at Venezuelan medical schools where Cuban doctors teach, are very much involved on the operational side of the program.
Now, three years later, in addition of flying hundreds of thousands of patients to Cuba and Venezuela for operations and treatment, Cuba has also constructed and donated 36 ophthalmologic centers which are already functioning in 8 countries in Latin American, the Caribbean and Africa (13 centers in Venezuela, 2 in Haiti, 12 in Bolivia, 2 in Guatemala, 2 in Ecuador, 1 in Honduras, 1 in Panama, 1 in Mali and 1 in Nicaragua [2 more are currently under construction in Nicaragua].) where, so far, 686,442 Latin American, African and Caribbean patients have already been operated on, as of June 13, 2007. More than 690 Cuban public health professionals are working in these ophthalmologic centers. These centers contain state-of-the-art equipment and supplies, most of which are manufactured in Cuba.
Another point on the medical side of Mission Miracle is that its incomparable success points to the existence of a medical and organizational infrastructure that can also be deployed to battle other diseases that plague humanity.
Read the rest of this remarkable story here.