A health foundation was launched in Beijing Wednesday to raise money for three hospital trains offering free cataract surgery across China.
The Chinese Foundation for Lifeline Express will particularly focus on helping patients in poor areas, Yin Dakui, vice-chairman and secretary-general of the foundation, said at the launching ceremony.
The hospital train program, named Lifeline Express, was initiated in Hong Kong in 1997. Since then, three four-carriage trains have been built with 130 million yuan (US$ 15.7 million) in donations from people in all walks of life in Hong Kong.
The trains, equipped with advanced facilities and top ophthalmologists from big cities such as Beijing, have traveled throughout poverty-stricken areas, helping 27,000 cataract patients have their eyesight restored.
However, health officials and experts say a larger number of patients in China are still in urgent need of surgery.
More than 3 million Chinese suffer from cataract-caused blindness, with 400,000 people becoming new patients each year, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health.
More than half the patients living in poor and remote areas neither have access to nor can afford the surgery, said Yin Dakui,a former vice-minister of health.
The Lifeline Express program plans to carry out 10,000 cataract operations annually from next year, and increase investment in the training of local eye doctors, Yin said.
The program now needs more funds, Yin said, adding that the new foundation will work actively to raise donations both at home and abroad.
(People's Daily November 28, 2002)