Andean Medical Mission

In 2011 a group of medical professionals came together to form The Andean Medical Mission, a charity aimed at treating blindness and blinding eye disease in the remote regions of the Bolivian Amazon. Mr Gouws is a founding member and a director in the charity and undertakes yearly trips to this remote region.

According to the World Health Organization, Bolivia is the poorest nation in South America and citizens who live in rural areas are disproportionately affected by poverty. 43% of the population lives below the international poverty line and 23% live below the international extreme poverty line.

In the rural Amazon basin, living conditions are challenging and blindness is dangerous and severely limiting as there are no support services. We now have a manager, David Goldsmith, living in Bolivia to co-ordinate trips on the ground and act as liaison with government organisations.

This June 2019, Mr Gouws led a team of 4 people on a 2-week camp to Reyes, a small town in the North of Bolivia on the Beni River as well San Lorenzo, a very remote village in the Moxos area. We passes the milestone of 1000 blind people operated on! All members are volunteers and self-fund their journey. Travel is very arduous and then the hard work begins….

We typically spend a half day setting up a suitable theatre space, clinic area and some basic accommodation before starting to see patients. The aim is to maximise surgeries performed during the mission and therefore tend to work very long hours.

Due to COVID we have not been able to do any trips in 2020 but in 2021 we are collaborating with the Bolivian ministery for health to provide COVID vaccinations to the remote areas we have worked in before.

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Setting up a suitable operating space.

There usually are some DIY repairs/modifications to adjust to conditions!

Screening patients to find treatable disease.

Me performing a cataract extraction. The dense black lens extracted shown below.

The whole village coming to say thank you and farewell!