Cuban Doctors Provide Free Eye Care in Bolivia

Cuban medical experts have been giving people in South America specialized ocular treatment for 10 years.

Cuban doctors have been traveling the world returning to many the gift of seeing. (Photo: EFE)

Cuban medical professionals specialized in ocular treatment have traveled to all corners of the Americas for over a decade providing high quality medical attention for free to people in need.

The initiatve is called “Operation Milagro,” or Operation Miracle, which began in 2004 as a joint project between Cuba and Venezuela. In Bolivia, the operation has been active since 2006, the year President Evo Morales first took office in the Andean country.

One of Cuba’s largest exports is medical personnel. Sometimes described as “medical diplomacy,” since the Caribbean island’s 1959 Revolution, an internationalist approach to sending highly qualified doctors like Dr. Barbara Estevez around the world has been a pillar of Cuba’s unique brand of socialism.

“We provide free health care, this is something that is conceptually important, the idea of charging a patient for any type of service doesn’t exist in our heads, and this is something that is always very gratifying for the poor of the Earth, for the humble people who don’t have the possibility to access medical services,” Estevez said.

In the Bolivian city of El Alto, one of the Operation Miracle centers has been changing lives, and in some cases, returning vision to those who thought they would never see again.

Patients receive care from the most basic eye checkups to advanced surgeries, all for free. The center does not discriminate based on race, religion, income, or nationality.

A number of patients traveled from neighboring Peru to receive treatment for any variety of eye problems.

Jose Mamani Condori made de trip from Arequipa, Peru to receive a corrective surgery that has helped to restore his previously failing vision.

“In my country, Peru, there is not this sort of conscientious attention, what comes first is the economic aspect, he who has more money is offered much better attention and he who does not have money is forced to wait,” he said.

Since the operation at the center began in 2006, the rotating team of Cuban doctors has performed the miracle of maintaining and restoring site to more than 100,000 patients.

For Dr. Estevez, it’s all part of the job.  “When a patient who has lost their vision is able to recover it once again, it is really something fantastic, maybe that is the origin of Operation Miracle, it means returning to the light, being able to see again.”


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