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Eye-care Program Brings Relief to Tibetans

Nearly 1,280 cataract sufferers in the Tibet Autonomous Region regained their eyesight last year, thanks to a state-sponsored medical program.

The majority of the patients were farmers and herdsmen, ranging in age from 4 to 93, reported Xinhua news agency.

Due to the high altitude and excessive exposure to ultra-violet rays, Tibetans have a cataract incidence rate double that of other parts of the country. Yet most counties and townships in Tibet have no eye hospitals.

The current program is the fourth, and the largest, of the "Sight First China Action" project, aimed at helping cataract sufferers regain their sight.

More than 4,800 patients with eye diseases in Tibet's 32 counties were diagnosed and received treatment last year. All cataract sufferers had artificial lenses implanted.

The Sight First China Action project was launched in 1997 by the Ministry of Health, the Chinese Disabled Persons' Federation, and Lions Club International.

It was aimed at helping 1.75 million people regain their eyesight and to train 11,000 ophthalmologists at hospitals across the country between 1997 and 2001.

So far, more than 1.2 million cataract patients have been operated on and some 11,000 medical workers have been trained.

(eastday.com February 15, 2002)

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