Health officials say the ‘Miracle Mission’ has brought untold joy to thousands of Saint Lucians. The programme, which provides free eye care and tackles preventable blindness, was launched by the Venezuelan government in 2005. The Cuban government took over the programme a few years later and has since built and staffed a state of the art Ophthalmology Unit at the Victoria Hospital in the capital Castries.
Anthony Avril is the president of the Blind Welfare Association. His young son is one of 2,000 children who benefited from the programme.
“It is really targeting children. As you know, eyes are very sensitive and when it comes to children, we really want them to have the best possible help that is available,” he told teleSUR.
Nurse Jeanne Frederick has worked with the Cuban medical experts from the inception of the programme. She says she has seen the impact the Miracle Mission has had on the lives of patients first hand.
“It’s a pleasure to work with these Cuban doctors and nurses. I think they are very well integrated in our society and they are loved by all the patients that they serve. They are very warm and they do what they do with so much love,” she said, adding, “The patients are grateful. They show their appreciation by bringing gifts, sometimes produce from their farms or even a flower from their garden. I hope the programme continues because of the number of people who have benefited. Were it not for this programme, I do not know what would have happened.”
She stated that while Mission Milagro was founded to treat cataracts, patients with a host of eye conditions turned up to the clinics and the Cuban doctors and nurses screened them and treated other conditions such as glaucoma and near sightedness.
Fourteen Caribbean countries are part of the eye care programme.
In July 2014, Cuban officials joined the local Ministry of Health in a grand 10th anniversary celebration of the Miracle Mission. The Cuban government was praised for its selfless and valuable work. Representatives of the local Cuban embassy stated that it was not a gift, but a right for all and the health experts were pleased to be part of a programme aimed at ensuring access to quality health care to the people of the Caribbean.