The pain and suffering of blindness is incalculable. The restoration of sight is priceless. The mission of the Armenian EyeCare Project is to eliminate preventable blindness in Armenia and to make 21st century eye care accessible to every Armenian child and adult.
In 1992, a call came from Armenia’s Minister of Health: “Help us fight the growing wave of blindness.” Years of tragedy had taken a heavy toll on the dark eyes of Armenia, a country about the size of Maryland with roughly three million residents struggling toward a brighter future.
Nestled between Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan, Armenia suffered a devastating earthquake in 1988 that killed more than 50,000 and injured many more. That same year, war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan and lasted for six destructive years. By 1991, a major health care crisis had erupted and a call for help was issued. Teams of American ophthalmologists, many returning to their homeland, embarked on a mission to Armenia, taking with them medicine and equipment. More than half of the patients they treated were children and almost all were war casualties.
Roger Ohanesian, M.D., a Laguna Beach, California ophthalmologist, made his first visit to Armenia in 1992, and subsequently founded the Armenian EyeCare Project (AECP.) Every year since, American ophthalmologists and reconstructive surgeons travel to Armenia twice a year on Medical Missions, at their own expense, to bring hope and eye care to those who view these American doctors as their last chance for sight.
In 2002, our Tenth Anniversary, the Armenian EyeCare Project expanded its program by launching the initiative, “Bringing Sight to Armenian Eyes,” to eliminate preventable blindness in Armenia. This initiative is being accomplished through a comprehensive, integrated program focusing on (1) direct patient care; (2) medical education and training; (3) public education; (4) research; and (5) capacity building. At the same time, the EyeCare Project opened an office in Yerevan, enabling the organization to maintain a year-round presence in Armenia.
Armenia’s critical need for eye care is caused by a variety and severity of eye diseases not seen in other countries combined with serious, long-term eye trauma complications — many from the landmines that still dot playgrounds and schoolyards. Particularly troubling is the alarming rate of childhood eye disease found in Armenian youth, including glaucoma and diabetes-related eye disease almost never seen in American youth and not manifested in Americans until their later years.