Myanmar Eye Care Program
Our very own Dr Kwon Kang has been leading a team of highly skilled Australian Ophthalmologists and support staff to alleviate the dire situation in Myanmar. It has one of the highest rates of blindness in the world with 50% of the population living below the poverty line. In recent years, Dr Kang has been able to train local doctors in cataract surgery and now to more complex surgeries such as vitrectomies. The Myanmar Eye Care Program (MECP) has been operating since 2002 and aims to empower the people of Myanmar to alleviate avoidable blindness by establishing a self-sustaining, high quality and efficient eye care health system.
Together with more than 40 Australian medical eye specialists and support staff, two of our world-renowned eye specialists Dr Kwon Kang and Dr Lisa Cottee self-fund their travel to Myanmar and volunteer their time to provide treatment to approximately 30,000 people each year.
Dr Kang’s surgical skills and results are legendary. As soon as he arrives at Wachet Hospital the local eye doctors rush to send him their impossible cases. Dr Kang says “I started going to Myanmar 13 years ago. There was a desperate need to upskill local eye surgeons, which initially seemed impossible due to needing expensive, intricate equipment and even a generator for electricity.”
Dr Cottee remembers in the early days, she had to remove rock-like cataracts from eyes by torchlight with a microscope held together by fence wire which, she explains, “was tough and stressful”. “We don’t know how lucky we are to have a reliable electricity supply, backup generators, top class microscopes and clean theatres,” she confirms, “which here, makes surgery a pleasure”.
The surgeons, including Cottee and Kang, have performed more than 12,000 operations since the project began, and continue to perform 5,000 each year to combat avoidable blindness.