"What it means for a person to have their sight again, in recent years 707,737 Bolivians recovered it and all these patients did not pay a peso, it was all free," the Bolivian Minister of Health, Gabriela Montaño, said Friday on a official statement.
The program was launched in 2004 by late revolutionary leaders, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez. During its first year, only Venezuelan patients were treated but in 2005 it was extended to other Caribbean, Central and South American countries. Initially, patients had to travel to Cuba to for treatment, but in 2006 the program set up ophthalmology centers in several nations, including Bolivia.
The program offers 100 percent free optometry consultations, exams, surgeries and medications to low-income people, which in Bolivia are treated in five specialized ophthalmology centers. These establishments are located in the municipalities of El Alto, Guayaramerín, Yacuiba, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz.
In the last 12 years, as the Bolivian Ministry of Health stated, Operation Miracle performed 505,663 pterygium surgeries (growth of tissue in the eye due to high exposure to wind and sun) and 86,396 cataract surgeries (the natural process of aging of the lens), the first cause of reversible blindness.
"Thanks to President Evo Morales and Cuban doctors, we see now with no problem and we can carry out all our daily activities," a 63-year-old couple, Rogelio Velazquez and Angelica Rosse told Prensa Latina Friday.
According to the Cuban Ophthalmology Institute, by 2017 there were 65 ophthalmology centers, equipped with 93 operating theaters, in 18 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa, providing treatment to people in 34 nations.