Cuba offers free Eye Surgery to Belizeans

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 15, No. 37            September 15, 2005

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Twenty people departed San Pedro Town on Monday, September 12th, 2005, bound for Cuba to receive free eye surgery, which will be provided to them free of cost. Last Friday, Dr. Silvia L. Alvarez and María N. Lam, accompanied by Cuban optometrist Frances Jones visited "La Isla Bonita" to conduct screening on anyone who suffers from any eye disease. After a complete eye exam, 54 patients have been approved to travel to Cuba and have their conditions remedied. The surgery, along with trip to and from Cuba, accommodation, hospital fees and medication will all be provided free of cost.

   In an interview with Cuban Ambassador to Belize, Eugenio Martinez, this program named Misión Milagro (Miracle Mission) first began in Venezuela where approximately 60,000 patients traveled to Cuba for eye surgery. "Because of financial constraints or the inaccessibility to the services, many individuals suffer from conditions that are very easy to treat. Since we receive these surgeries free of charge in Cuba, we decided to start helping other people," stated Ambassador Martinez. He went on to explain, "Approximately eight million people worldwide suffer from treatable conditions like cataracts that we could help out. In Venezuela, in one year we provided surgeries for thirty-eight thousand people; more than one hundred patients a day. We have the facilities and the capacity to treat up to twenty thousand patients at a time. We started with the Caribbean, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Belize."

   With the help of the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI), approximately 3,269 patients from Belize have already flown to Cuba to receive their free eye surgeries. According to Ambassador Martinez, other free screenings will be conducted in San Pedro in the hopes of recruiting more patients to travel to Cuba.
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