Himalayan Cataract Project

Medical Eye Center’s Dr. Matt Oliva is a board member and director of African programs at the Himalayan Cataract Project, an international non-profit organization working to cure blindness in the poorest communities of Asia and Africa. Drs. Paul Jorizzo and John Welling are also associate physicians with the organization.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness globally and can be treated with modern surgical techniques. The surgery is readily available in wealthy countries and cataracts are typically removed when there is only mild visual impairment. In poorer countries, however, the condition often progresses to total blindness, and treatment for many is unavailable. The World Health Organization estimates that 18 million people are blind from cataracts.



The Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) is one of eight groups named as semi-finalists in 100&Change, a global competition for a single $100 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

In June 2016, the MacArthur Foundation launched the competition, offering a $100 million grant to fund a single project which makes measurable progress towards solving an significant global problem. The winner will be announced later this year.

Avoidable blindness persists despite known, cost-effective solutions, with 90% of the world’s blind living in low income countries. In fact, 18 million people are completely blind due to cataracts—a condition permanently curable with an inexpensive, 10-minute surgery.

The Himalayan Cataract Project has worked since 1995 to develop sustainable solutions for needless blindness throughout Asia and Africa. The organization first developed its systems in Nepal where the prevalence of blindness has fallen by two-thirds since the early 1990s.

“The 100&Change grant could enable the Himalayan Cataract Project to reach the tipping point to eliminate needless blindness on a global scale. A grant of $100 million could generate billions in leveraged investment,” says Dr. Geoffrey Tabin, the Co-Founder of the Himalayan Cataract Project.

The economic empowerment generated by eye care development has been shown again and again. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers-led study demonstrated a 400% return on every dollar invested in eye care programs in the developing world. Other studies estimate that $47 billion is lost in productivity every year due to blindness—and predominantly in countries that can afford it the least.

“Selection as a 100&Change semi-finalist is a major endorsement of the eye care model that we have developed and implemented with partners over the last two decades. With an investment of this magnitude, we can scale-up faster, expand our training, infrastructure, and innovation, and cure over 500,000 blind people,” says HCP Chief Executive Officer, Job Heintz.

Learn More
Read more about the grant competition and HCP’s answer for unlocking the solution to blindness around the globe:

Second Suns

Second-Suns-coverThe Himalayan Cataract Project is the subject of a new book called Second Suns, published by Random House. Told in vivid detail by renown author David Oliver Relin, Second Suns chronicles the journeys of two doctors and their amazing quest to restore sight and save lives. Drs. Sanduk Ruit and Geoffrey Tabin—co-founders of the Himalayan Cataract Project—are united in their dedication to bringing high quality cataract surgery to the most destitute and remote populations in the world. “Blindness from cataracts is completely treatable,” says Dr. Tabin. “It’s just a matter of will and money.”

Dr. Ruit adapted a system of high-quality, high-volume and low-cost cataract care to the most inaccessible regions of the Himalaya. Dr. Tabin, an accomplished ophthalmologist and mountaineer from Chicago, was the fourth person to scale the highest peak on all seven continents. This unlikely pairing is training a generation of eye care professionals to increase the capacity of third-world countries to provide eye care for their own citizens.

Second Suns has received wide national acclaim and has been featured in prominent media outlets including:

“I’m very proud to be mentioned in Second Suns” says Dr. Oliva. “I’m hoping the book will raise awareness for our high quality, comprehensive approach to eradicating treatable blindness in the world’s poorest countries.”

Second Suns is available now. Purchase your copy locally at Bloomsbury Books.

ABC’s NightLine

The Himalayan Cataract Project was featured on an August 2013 edition of NightLine. While Dr. Geoffrey Tabin is featured in the story, it is an example of the same outreach that Drs. Matt Oliva, Paul Jorizzo, Paul Imperia and other Medical Eye Center colleagues have performed many times in Ethiopia. The response from this ABC piece has been overwhelming. Over 2500 new donors have contributed $200,000+ to the charitable work of the non-profit Himalayan Cataract Project.

Click here to watch the video.

There will be a longer, more in-depth program on the October 8th edition of NightLine that will discuss how American ophthalmologists train local doctors around the world. The program will interview Ethiopian colleagues that have worked closely with Medical Eye Center’s surgeons.

Check back soon.

Dr. Matt Oliva’s interview on KOBI-NBC5

Dr. Oliva was interviewed on July 22, 2013 on KOBI-NBC5. He discussed Second Suns, and his work with the Himalayan Cataract Project. The 22-minute segment starts at the 4:25 mark.

Jefferson Public Radio

Dr. Oliva was also featured on the July 29th edition of the Jefferson Exchange on Jefferson Public Radio.

Curing blindness in Ethiopia

Watch a video about the the Himalayan Cataract Project’s work in Ethiopia.

How you can help

Do you find this story inspiring? When an appeal is made to help others, some of us are called to use our unique skills like Dr. Oliva, who travels to the world’s poorest countries and gives his time restoring people’s eyesight. You can help this mission by contributing to the Himalyan Cataract Project. Donations of any amount are welcome and directly support curing preventable blindness.