Robert Slattery is a writer living in Western North Carolina. He enjoys music and all sorts of other things.
Social Issues – While it is no surprise that developing nations struggle for proper medical care (cleft palate infomercials, anyone?), the images that cross our minds are typically those of infectious diseases and birth defects. The far more subtle — and, in some ways, insidious — problem of vision loss is prolonging economic development in these countries. This is impacting two countries especially hard: Papua New Guinea and South Sudan.
Papua New Guinea is facing a population of roughly 200,000 who are blind or have poor eyesight. Medical care is something rural families are unable to afford, and though there are schools for blind children, there are only seven, holding a total of 6,000 children. This means that those children who are born with blindness or degenerative sight problems will not get the education that will best enable them to contribute to their homes and achieve the most possible from their lives.
South Sudan, in many ways, is worse, for the availability of eye care is even more severe. Though the statistic of blind is similar (estimated to be about 250,000 people) there is only one major eye care center in the country of 9 million. And worse still, only one ophthalmologist. This is a severe imbalance compared to the World Health Organization’s recommendation of one ophthalmologist to every 400,000 people.
In both countries, like many other impoverished and rural areas across the world, medical care is limited, and when it exists it suffers from limited knowledge, hokum belief, high cost, or some blending of the three. Often times, more than goods and vaccines, these areas need knowledge, education, and educated people who can not only help out hands on, but create systems for this knowledge to grow and multiply.