HelpMeSee reaches 200,000 cataract surgeries with Madagascar campaign launch


HelpMeSee, a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, has now supported 200,000 cataract surgeries globally since 2012. The campaign’s milestone achievement coincides with the launch of operations in Madagascar, which was made possible through a partnership with the Trafigura Foundation.

Dr. Aimee Rakotondra, a partner surgeon in Madagascar, completed the 200,000th global surgery needed to reach this goal at a hospital in the capital city of Antananarivo.

The campaign’s expansion in Madagascar follows the acceptance of a Letter of Intent between HelpMeSee and Madagascar’s Ministry of Health in 2014. Several members of the HelpMeSee team visited Madagascar in June 2015 to begin initial outreach efforts and train medical personnel before surgeries began at the end of July.

HelpMeSee’s Madagascar campaign includes ongoing partnerships with both the Ministry of Health and the local chapter of the Lions Club International, a global service organization and major supporter of blindness prevention programmes worldwide through the SightFirst programme.

Before and after: HelpMeSee Madagascar's patient #200 000

helpmesee, cataract removal

“The Madagascar Campaign has achieved a critical milestone for HelpMeSee,” said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President and CEO of HelpMeSee.

“Our focus on delivering high-quality, cost-effective surgeries will restore dignity to the thousands in Madagascar who are needlessly blind. A sustainable solution will ensure that all Madagascans who need cataract surgery in the future will no longer have to wait until they are blind.”

HelpMeSee’s partnership with the Trafigura Foundation includes funding for pre-sterilized, single use surgical kits to be used for thousands of surgeries in Madagascar, Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Guinea-Conakry, Angola and Myanmar. Support for HelpMeSee is the latest chapter in a long history of efforts to end preventable blindness.

“HelpMeSee’s mission matches the Trafigura Foundation’s core values. We choose to support organizations that enable people to reach their full potential,” said Vincent Faber, Executive Director of the Trafigura Foundation.

“Thanks to HelpMeSee, we are able to enhance not just the physical but also the socio-economic wellbeing of beneficiaries. We know that one person recovering sight means that a whole family is strengthened. We are proud to have helped scale up this ground-breaking surgical technique since 2009.”

Madagascar has a major shortage of eye care with just two ophthalmologists per million people, according to the International Council of Ophthalmology. The country has an estimated backlog of over 150,000 people who are blind from this treatable condition. A 2014 Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) survey in Madagascar found that cataracts were the cause of 64% of blindness and 86% of severe visual impairment.

During the milestone celebrations, HelpMeSee recognized the highly-acclaimed violinist Paul Peabody for his support, which included overseas concerts to raise funds for HelpMeSee partner hospitals. Peabody, who works with the New York City Ballet, won a Grammy Award as part of the orchestra that recorded the soundtrack for Titanic.

Watch: HelpMeSee's MSICS Simulator Demonstration

To read more about HelpMeSee’s campaign in Madagascar, visit

Watch: How smartphones are revolutionising eye care in Africa

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Along with a smartphone-based patient mobilization app, HelpMeSee has reached the advanced stages of a virtual reality MSICS training simulator that will be used to train cataract specialists. The simulator is the product of a global collaboration between HelpMeSee, MOOG, Inria, InSimo and SenseGraphics.
To date, the HelpMeSee campaign has supported over 200,000 sight-restoring surgeries to patients in India, Nepal, China, Peru, Vietnam, Togo, Sierra Leone and Madagascar.

About the Trafigura Foundation
Launched in 2007, the Trafigura Foundation ( supports sustainable development programs in more than 30 countries. The Foundation’s vision is a world where people reach their full potential through self-sustaining solutions, of which they can gradually take full ownership.

Helping people help themselves through income-generating activities is central to the Foundation’s mandate and its desire to create a sustainable model for corporate philanthropy.

Read more:

Cataracts the main cause of blindness in SA children

Gauteng fast tracks eye ops in honour of Madiba

Nine warning signs you can pick up from your eyes

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.