Havana.  March 12, 2009

      Operation Miracle unstoppable throughout the world 

      Juan Diego Nusa PeƱalver

      HAVANA, March 11. - More than 1.5 million people from 35 countries, 
including Cuba, have benefited from Operation Miracle, a free ophthalmologic 
rehabilitation program sponsored by the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.

      Of this figure, more than 1.331 million are foreign patients, of whom 
266,743 underwent surgery in ophthalmological centers in Cuba, according to 
CubaCoopera, the Minister of Foreign Affairs website, reported.

      The remainder of these complex operations have been performed in 60 
ophthalmological centers, with 91 surgery posts, donated by Cuba to Venezuela, 
Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, Paraguay, 
Uruguay, Mali, and Angola.

      Likewise, Peru, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname 
are benefiting from centers of this type. 

      According to estimates by the World Health Organization, more than 37 
million people in the world are blind due to preventable causes, more than 1.5 
million of whom are children under the age of 16.

      The prevalence of blindness varies in relation to countries' levels of 
economic development because, while the incidence rate of this disease in 
developed nations is only 0.25%, in states with poor economies and health 
services it  rises to 1% of the population. 

      In the so called Third World, the principal causes of blindness are 
cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, infectious diseases - like trachoma 
and oncocercosis - and Vitamin A deficiency.

      Other ophthalmological conditions like pterygium, ptosis and strabismus 
also have a high incidence in infant and adult populations.

      The Cuban and Venezuelan presidents, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, agreed 
to develop this program of cooperation on July 5, 2004. (AIN


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