Trafigura Foundation Supports HelpMeSee Campaign to Eliminate Blindness Caused by Cataracts

Strategic Partnership Strengthens HelpMeSee Campaign in Africa and Asia

May 29, 2014, 11:00 ET from HelpMeSee

NEW YORK, May 29, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- HelpMeSee – a global campaign to eliminate blindness caused by cataracts – today announced a strategic, collaborative partnership with the Trafigura Foundation – a world-class foundation, committed to helping people and communities reach their full potential through sustainable solutions for economic and social development.

The partnership supports the HelpMeSee goal of eliminating cataract blindness by targeting communities living in austere circumstances with the objective of building sustainable access to well-trained local surgeons who can provide high quality, sight-restoring MSICS (manual small incision cataract surgeries) through the use of an innovative, pre-sterilized, single-use MSICS Kit. Initially, Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Guinea Conakry and Angola in Africa and Myanmar in Asia have been identified for the partnership's first phase.

The main component of this partnership is a $350,000 Matching Grant Fund that doubles any gift made through the donation portal by December 2014. The matching grant enables HelpMeSee to not only expand its programmatic reach, but allows full integration and implementation of the MSICS Kit – an approach that will significantly improve surgical outcomes and allow programmatic expansion into some of the world's most rural and underserved regions.

"With 22 million people suffering from cataract blindness, and 90 percent of those people living in underserved areas with no access to quality care, the need to address this endemic problem on a large scale is overdue," said Eric de Turckheim, chairman, Trafigura Foundation. "The HelpMeSee program exemplifies the synergy of strategic direction and investment transparency we look for in organizations and allows us to be a part of addressing, and helping finally eliminate cataract blindness in the world."

Throughout the world, untreated cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, making up 51% of all cases. Approximately 22 million people are bilaterally blind due to cataracts – with approximately 6 million living in 23 Western and Sub-Saharan African countries. As an example of this disparity, proposed campaign areas such as Mali, have a cataract surgical rate (CSR) of 300 annually despite decade-long efforts by national and international interventions. In contrast, most developed countries have a CSR of 7,000 to 9,000 annually. Meanwhile in Myanmar – another partnership focus area – treatable cataracts account for nearly 64 percent of all blindness cases. Currently, Myanmar has only 200 ophthalmologists, with less than half of those performing surgery and none of them performing MSICS (manual small incision cataract surgery).

The Trafigura Foundation champions the ideology of partnering with organizations in carrying out and strengthening programs in three areas of focus: sustainable development, education & integration, and health. The Foundation's belief is that these different roads to development are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

"The HelpMeSee partnership has great synergy with the Trafigura Foundation's core values. We support organizations that enable people to reach socio-economic wellbeing," said Vincent Faber, executive director, Trafigura Foundation. "In this case, thanks to HelpMeSee, we are able to scale up an innovative project, which we have been supporting since 2009. More lives will be positively affected and we also know that one person recovering sight means that a whole family is strengthened."

In its entirety, the HelpMeSee campaign will cover 34 countries by 2020 with targeted delivery of cataract surgical services, quality assurance systems, cataract surgery simulation training centers and the support needed for locals to establish cataract surgical clinics, which will be managed and operated by graduates of the HelpMeSee MSICS Surgical Training program.

"The success of the HelpMeSee campaign depends on a convergence of technologies designed to directly address cataract blindness on two main levels," said Jim Ueltschi, co-founder, HelpMeSee. "The first is to eliminate the backlog of cataract blindness that is affecting millions of people, and the second is to create and implement sustainable solutions that prevent this type of epic tragedy of ever taking place again. This partnership with the Trafigura Foundation enables HelpMeSee to reach these intended goals through the delivery of a very safe, affordable low-cost, high-quality cataract surgery to millions of adults and children in the developing world."

The HelpMeSee MSICS Kit
The reality that millions of people were suffering from a curable disease led two ophthalmologists from the University of Marseille – Dr. Jean Marie André and Dr. Bernard Ridings – to seek a sustainable solution to address the backlog of cataract blindness. Though MSICS was an effective and safe surgical procedure, the two doctors discovered that sterilization of instruments was a challenge in extreme rural areas where the majority of people lived.

To address this challenge and to further support the MSICS procedure, Dr. André and Dr. Ridings developed a single-use surgical kit adapted specifically for MSICS procedure – a production made possible through Trafigura Foundation funding. 

"HelpMeSee has further developed the concept of pre-sterilized single use MSICS Surgical Kit to scale, quality and accountability, said Mohan Jacob Thazhathu, president & CEO, HelpMeSee. This is fundamental for HelpMeSee to ensure global access to safe and effective cataract surgery at a very affordable cost of $50 per adult cataract surgery,"

The Africa campaign will expand HelpMeSee's Surgical Partner program, which enlists and supports local cataract surgeons to provide front-line solutions to eliminate cataract blindness backlog, and ongoing surgical services to those visually impaired by cataracts. HelpMeSee is introducing its MSICS Simulator for proficiency level training of cataract surgeons, which will be the centerpiece of the organization's training and educational program. With the MSICS Simulator, and related courseware/learning resources, HelpMeSee expects to train 30,000 MSIC Surgical Specialist to once and for all eliminate blindness caused by cataracts.

About the Trafigura Foundation
Launched in 2007, the Trafigura Foundation ( supports sustainable development programmes in more than 30 countries. The Foundation's vision is a world where people reach their full potential through self-sustaining solutions, of which they can gradually take full ownership. Helping people help themselves through income-generating activities is central to the Foundation's mandate and its desire to create a sustainable model for corporate philanthropy.

About HelpMeSee
HelpMeSee ( is a global campaign to eliminate blindness caused by cataracts endemic in developing countries. The HelpMeSee mission is to make available safe, effective and affordable standard of surgical care for restoration of eyesight surgery to millions of underserved blind and visually impaired population. HelpMeSee achieves this through training of thousands of highly skilled specialist cataract surgeons recruited from remote communities and financial support for self-sustainable surgical services. HelpMeSee has developed a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from successful experience in simulator based aviation training.

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Press Contact:
Perry Athanason