VHI has conducted one-week field programs in Piura, Peru every year since 2005. Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizzaro, founded Piura—the first colonial city to be located in Peru—in 1532. Piura is a vibrant commercial city of nearly 400,000 in the coastal/desert region of northwestern Peru.
Poverty, poor nutrition, and a lack of even the most basic medical care are the reality for a large percentage of Piura’s population. Vision health care is virtually absent for the poorest of Piura’s families. Infants and children with cataracts, strabismus, and other vision health problems are the least likely to receive professional eye care.
During each of VHI’s programs to Piura, the Peruvian Ministry of Health, local, regional and national government officials, the College of Physicians, and the administration and staff at the Hospital de Santa Rosa in Piura coordinate, facilitate and authorize VHI’s work.
Critical to VHI’s success in Piura is the close working relationship with Piura’s two public health ophthalmologists—Dr. Florentino Sotomayor and Dr. Jose Alva—who perform patient pre-screening and post-operative examinations and work, side-by-side, with VHI surgeons in the operating room. VHI contributes clinical expertise and, where possible, surplus supplies to allow Drs. Sotomayor and Alva to build their capacity to extend affordable and accessible vision health care services to those in Piura who might not otherwise receive the care they so urgently require.
Piura is unique to the VHI field program schedule due to its special, as we like to call it, “roving” eyeglass distribution teams. The Hospital de Santa Rosa, Piura’s primary public health hospital, does not have the space in which to efficiently conduct an eyeglass clinic, where many hundreds of deserving patients will congregate once word of available lenses is circulated. In 2010 VHI made the decision that if the patients can’t come to see us, then we’ll go to the patients.
VHI equips two teams (each composed of optometrists, ophthalmologists, opticians and other volunteers) with a wide range of prescription lenses, sunglasses and diagnostic equipment, who travel the region surrounding the metropolitan area. The teams provide initial vision screenings, determine prescription requirements, and dispense eyeglasses and sunglasses to those patients who might not otherwise ever be able to visit the hospital in Piura or ever see an eye care professional.
Recent trips to Piura:
- September 3-11, 2016
- July 11–18, 2015 (Pediatric teaching and surgery)
Trip dates are subject to change.
Related newsletter article:
Yesterday’s Child, (Fall 2011)
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