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Batey Relief Alliance (BRA) and New England College of Optometry prevent blindness among Dominican Republic’s most vulnerable.

20 March, 2016

SANTO DOMINGO, D.R., April 1, 20156.- As part of its Blindness Prevention program, the Batey Relief Alliance (BRA) joins forces with the Student Volunteer Optometrists for Service of Humanity of the New England College of Optometry (SVOSH-NECO) to bring to the Dominican Republic a group of 25 students, faculty and ophthalmologists to deliver critical eye care and prescription eyeglasses to 1,200 children and adults with severe eye problems.

At a cost of more than $200,000, and in its nineth consecutive year, the five-day mission will take place from April 11-15 in the Municipal District of Sabana Grande de Boya, Monte Plata province and will draw crowds of hundreds of people that will travel far away to take advantage of this once-in-a-life-time opportunity to check or treat their vision and receive a pair of eyeglasses—all free of charge. BRA’s CEO, Ulrick Gaillard commented that the optometry volunteer group is fully equipped and self-sufficient, and will travel with sophisticated machines, thousands of dollars in medicines, eye drops, eyeglasses and supplies. Patients who need follow-up or specialized care or custom-made eyeglasses will be referred to BRA’s medical center located inside Batey Cinco Casas where complete optometric and ophthalmology care is provided to hundreds year round.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that blindness affects over forty million people around the world, and that poor vision disables 135 million more. More than ninety percent of these people live in developing countries. Although effective prevention and timely treatment would eliminate eighty percent of global blindness, prevention and treatment of eye problems are inaccessible to many in the developing world, including the Dominican Republic. The unmet need for prescription spectacles frequently limit adult employment opportunities and reduce children’s ability to read and learn. “For us, it is a priority to ensure that a simple eye problem does not become a serious blindness-related issue to prevent a young child from ever attending school or an adult becoming productive, especially among the highly vulnerable undocumented population living in sugarcane rural communities known as “bateyes”. Just imagine that you cannot see, but don’t have the money or health insurance to see an eye doctor. The result could be disastrous not only for the family, but also for the entire community,” added Gaillard.

The five-day eye care intervention will be carried out in collaboration with the Dominican Ministry of Health, Lions Club Santo Domingo Arroyo Hondo and the Municipal Office of Sabana Grande de Boya.