The AECP expanded its holiday screening program this year, visiting three orphanages and two boarding schools in Yerevan. The AECP Mobile Eye Hospital (MEH) team revisited old friends at the Nork and Zatik orphanages. “The visits have become a tradition,” said Nork Director Liana Karapetyan. The team also added three new institutions to its schedule: the Zeitun Special Orphanage and the Vardashen and Nubarashen boarding schools. Nurse Kristine Grigoryan, who has worked at Vardashen School for two years, feels like she is part of something special. “I love the work,” she says, “There is a feeling of fulfillment, of being a part of a big, caring family, and we are glad that AECP has joined this family.”
As the population begins to age and life expectancy increases, it is imperative that Armenia address cataract surgical coverage. Today approximately 91,000 Armenians or 30 percent of the population, age 65 and over, have cataracts in one or both eyes, causing partial or complete blindness. By 2050, a little more than 30 years from now, that number will more than double ? an increase of nearly 150 percent or 221,200 Armenians. Because cataract surgery is so limited in Armenia ? just 24 percent coverage ? most people (76 percent) go without care leaving thousands visually disabled. In the United States people accept cataract surgery as a part of aging and it is a very common procedure. Sadly, in Armenia, many people accept blindness as a part of growing older because they have no access to cataract surgery.
The most valuable experience of my AECP internship was the general seeing, learning, and doing of the project’s objectives. The statistics compiled in the surveys came to life in Goris, where I sat in on meetings with the Ministers of Health, and edited grant proposals.