Alcon Partners with Mercy Ships to Fight Blindness in Africa

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Fellowship Grant to Support Training in Cataract Techniques

Seven year old Alexis Ahogbed and his two younger siblings were born blind from congenital cataracts. He and his younger brother and sister had their sight restored by free eye surgeries onboard the Africa Mercy with help from Alcon.

Alcon shares the Mercy Ships vision of providing education to increase the number of eye care professionals in the developing world so that quality eye care can reach those with the most need. We hope that this grant will contribute to Mercy Ships ongoing training for quality eye care.

Mercy Ships has announced the receipt of a $50,000 grant from The Alcon Foundation, the philanthropic interest of Alcon, Inc. (NYSE: ACL). The grant is earmarked for the expansion of the training component of the Mercy Vision program onboard the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship, the Africa Mercy.

Funding covers expenses for the "Mercy Ships Alcon Fellowship" - two three-month surgical fellowships for expatriate or national West African surgeons onboard the hospital ship in Cotonou, Benin, West Africa. The fellowship will offer training in advanced cataract techniques and will complement additional training done with community eye workers and local eye surgeons to help build capacity during the ship's 10-month port visit.

In addition to the grant, Alcon supports Mercy Ships with the very latest in equipment and disposables to allow Mercy Ships surgeons the benefit of choosing the most appropriate course of treatment for each patient.

According to Dr. Glenn Strauss, Chief of Ophthalmology Service and Senior VP of Strategic Health Care for Mercy Ships, patients in Africa often develop more dense and severe cataracts due to the frequency of eye trauma, the intensity of the sun's rays along the equator, nutritional issues, and lack of access to ophthalmic intervention. Surgeons need to understand all of the techniques available to them and how they can provide the most affordable quality care in the areas they are working in.

"We believe that teaching these techniques contributes to a sustainable solution to eye care needs in Africa because they are suited to local patients," said Strauss, who began training the first fellowship grantee from Gabon this month. The fellowship training will also emphasize whole-patient care concepts, developing the trainees' skills to meet the variety of challenges they will experience as future leaders in eye care.

Alcon has partnered with Mercy Ships since the charity's inception 30 years ago. Since 1997 Alcon has donated more than $5.6 million worth of equipment, supplies, and pharmaceuticals to support Mercy Ships efforts to address preventable blindness.

"Mercy Ships vision of training local ophthalmologists to serve the eye care needs of their own communities will help create sustainable eye care delivery in some of the most underserved regions of Africa," commented Sara Woodward, Director of Alcon's Corporate Humanitarian Services. "Alcon shares the Mercy Ships vision of providing education to increase the number of eye care professionals in the developing world so that quality eye care can reach those with the most need. We hope that this grant will contribute to Mercy Ships ongoing training for quality eye care."

Although eye care is only one of many surgeries provided by the ship's team of professional volunteers, during the hospital ship's 10-month stay in the West African port Mercy Ships surgeons expect to evaluate and treat 20,000 patients for basic eye disease and provide specialized surgery for 3,000 people blinded by cataracts.

Alcon is the world's leading eye care company and has been improving eye health and vision for more than 60 years. Alcon has the broadest offering of pharmaceutical, surgical and consumer products for the eye. With the largest corporate research and development commitment of any eye care company worldwide, Alcon develops pharmaceutical products to treat glaucoma, retinal diseases, dry eye, infection, inflammation and allergy; surgical products for cataract, vitreoretinal and refractive procedures, and consumer products in the areas of contact lens care, dry eye and ocular health. Alcon plans to invest at least $3 billion over the next five years to discover and develop new treatments for conditions and diseases of the eye. For more information about Alcon, please visit

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $670 million, directly impacting more than 5.5 million direct beneficiaries. More than 1,200 crew worldwide, representing more than 35 nations are joined each year by over 2,000 short-term volunteers. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. For more information click on

Hi-res photos and general Mercy Ships broadcast footage clips are available for download at or upon request. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Mercy Ships Media Contacts:
Diane Rickard, Director, International Media Relations
44.1438.727.800 (UK)

Pauline Rick, U.S. Director of Public Relations

Alcon Media Contact:
Holly Clark,Corporate Communications


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