The Himalayan Cataract Project is one of eight groups named as semifinalists 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 toward solving a 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 Himalayan Cataract Project's solution scales sustainable delivery systems in three countries where the bulk of its resources are currently focused - Nepal, Ethiopia and Ghana. Collaborating with leaders in global eye care and medical technology, Himalayan Cataract Project focuses on capacity building and local empowerment while supporting high quality, high volume service in the poorest parts of a country. Himalayan Cataract Project will expand the models to include innovative, refractive programs that address uncorrected vision while also providing sustainable revenue generation. Most importantly, Himalayan Cataract Project and its partners will unlock the blueprint for sustainable eye care delivery worldwide, in a manner that can be shared, replicated and scaled.
"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," Geoffrey Tabin, MD, cofounder of the Himalayan Cataract Project, said in a news release.
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 by the economies 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," said HCP Chief Executive Officer Job Heintz.