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Cataract operations

Our free cataract operations are helping to cure one of the world’s most common ageing eyesight problems, for some of the world’s poorest people.

Our work to restore sight is simple but so impactful. Restoring someone's sight means restoring their independence. A cataract operation can mean so much - going to the toilet on your own, working and earning a living, seeing the faces of your grandchildren. 


What are cataracts?

  • A cataract is clouding of the lens of the eye, which prevents clear vision.
  • Most cataracts are related to ageing, but malnutrition and dry climates also make cataracts worse.
  • It takes just 30 minutes to remove a cataract - yet millions of older people around the world are blind because they can't afford the operation.

How we restore sight

Restoring sight in six simple steps:

  1. Our mobile eye hospitals reach older people no matter where they are
  2. Eye tests determine if an older people person needs glasses or an operation
  3. If you need an operation, we take you to the nearest clinic for free
  4. In some countries, eye doctors also donate their time for free - so we just need to cover the cost of the lens and other equipment 
  5. Following an operation, we give out eye drops and provide follow-up care
  6. We also give out free  glasses and provide information to help people to take care of their eyes

Cataract operations are a relatively simple and safe procedure. But hospitals can be scary places, especially if an older person is used to visiting traditional local healers. That is why, if an older person needs surgery, we reassure them and support them every step of the way.


Our work in action: helping a refugee widow to see

60-year-old grandmother Nyabel smiles after her cataract operation (copyright: Erna Mentesnot Hintz/ HelpAge International)

'Bless all of you who have returned my mother’s vision to her. She can see her grandchildren. You have changed an old woman’s life.'

When we met Nyabel she was living in a refugee camp Gambella, Ethiopia, with her daughter and five grandchildren, all having fled from war. Her sight had deteriorated years ago, when she was living back home in South Sudan.

‘It all began with headaches and dizziness,’ she told us. ‘I remember telling my family how my sight was becoming blurry, until one day everything was dark and I could not see a thing. I felt very sad there was nothing I, nor anyone else, could do to change that.’

Our eye care team travelled to Nyabel’s refugee camp and performed a cataract operation to restore her sight. After the operation, we spoke to her again:

‘I never would have thought this dream of mine could come true. I am very happy!’ Nyabel told us.

‘I thank the donors and the doctors, who travelled many miles, to make an older woman’s life easier. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.’

Donate to support Age International

Our work relies on monthly donations. Today, 100 million older people struggle to survive on less than 60p a day. A monthly gift from you could help someone to live with dignity.

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Last updated: Sep 04 2018

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