Three children with glasses, smiling at the camera

Fighting Blindness in Peru

In Peru, around 950k people are visually impaired and another 145,000 are blind. There is a critical need to tackle some of the more complicated and less understood causes of eye disease in the region such as Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) in premature babies and Diabetic Retinopathy (DR).

Retinopathy of Prematurity

It is estimated that 7.3% of babies are born prematurely per year in Peru. As the baby is born early or small, the development of blood vessels in the eye is not complete and may become abnormal, and the baby develops Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). ROP has become the leading cause of childhood blindness.

Diabetic Retinopathy

With approximately 5.2% of adults suffering from diabetes and diagnosis rates as low as 50% in some regions, Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) poses a huge risk. Everyone with diabetes is at risk of developing Diabetic Retinopathy as excessive blood sugar levels can cause irreversible damage to the to the vessels in the retina - which is why early detection and intervention is crucial in preventing blindness.

As more and more adults develop diabetes around the world, Diabetic Retinopathy is increasingly becoming one of the leading causes of blindness in working age adults.

Success in Peru

The Flying Eye Hospital first landed in Peru in 1982 and since then our projects have grown to deal with cataracts, pediatric ophthalmology, Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) and Diabetic Retinopathy.

From 2007 to 2016 we spearheaded two projects in 36 hospitals across Peru that focused on the dire situation surrounding ROP. At the outset of the program, most hospitals had close to zero resources to address ROP, and local staff had very little understanding of the issue.

Thanks to your support we have helped train 636 pediatricians and neonatologists, 93 residents and interns, 21 biomedical engineers and more than 1,000 registered nurses and technicians in sight saving oxygen therapy for premature babies. Over 2,000 babies were examined to detect ROP, treating up to 556 with Laser techniques. An additional 66 ophthalmologists were trained in detection and treatment, and more than 3,500 parents, mainly mothers, were educated on the disease and its follow up.

In 2020 alone, we delivered:

Watch: Erika & Adley now see a brighter future

We worked alongside our partner, Instituto Damos Visión, to create an ROP referral network across Peru and a digital database to collect data on the prevalence and treatment of ROP in the northern and central regions. This evidence is used to advocate for change and suggest improvements to ROP protocols.

From 2014 to 2017, we worked with the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology (IRO) to improve screening, referrals and treatment for diabetic retinopathy for people with diabetes - specifically lower income patients enrolled in the public health insurance. We trained professionals right cross the health system to ensure patients received the care they needed early enough for treatment to be successful.

Fighting avoidable blindness in Peru

In this time, we helped screen nearly 12,000 diabetic patients, a 78% increase from the previous years. From these, nearly 3000 patients were found to have some form of diabetic retinopathy. In total, 923 patients were saved from a lifetime of blindness thanks to this partnership.

Increasing Public Awareness

Our Orbis Latin America and Caribbean team have created a Spanish language animated video 'El Árbol Palanchin' or 'The Singing Tree' - a heartwarming educational story about the challenges children face when living with visual impairment.

The video was inspired by the book of the same name, written by Orbis supporter Ken Youngstein as part of a project supported by The Foundation for Health and Mind Development to improve patient education, counseling and public awareness of eye care.

Through creative awareness projects like these, we can promote early screening, diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases to families across Peru.

What We're Doing Next

Since 2016, Orbis has also been piloting a telemedicine program with Peru’s premier ophthalmic training institution, the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology (IRO), to train residents in new techniques.

We are continuing our work with the Instituto Damos Visión to reduce blindness and visual impairment caused by ROP via two projects that aim to implement a new ROP information system within partner hospitals in Lima and the northern region of Peru. Together, we have worked relentlessly for almost a decade to make this disease a priority for health institutions and more work is needed to ensure sustainability.

For a decade, we have also supported the Ministry of Health of Peru to improve eye care in the country. Our current work with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), International Eye Foundation (IEF) and Divino Niño Jesus (DNJ) is focused on the development, monitoring and evaluation of Peru’s national eye health plans.

With your ongoing support, other work will include piloting a global education and technology program to provide real-time surgical mentorship from our team of Volunteer Faculty using Cybersight, our telemedicine platform. We will also offer live case consultations and support to help improve the quality of training and the number of skilled ophthalmologists.


  • Instituto Damos Visión
  • Regional Institute of Ophthalmology (IRO)
  • Ministry of Health, Peru
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