On September 12, 2013, the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad received a distinguished visitor -- Nobel Peace Prize winner and President of the Republic of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The Liberian President, who had come to Delhi to receive the Indira Gandhi International Peace Prize for 2012, took time out to discuss the possibility of the reputed eye institute helping set up facilities back home. What prompted her move was not just the widely known contributions of the LV PEI, but also the first-hand account of the treatment her son received at the hospital.

Then followed discussions with the Founder and Chair of the Institute, Gullapalli N Rao, on the possibility of setting up an eye-care centre in Liberia and an invitation to help in the development of a comprehensive eye health system for the country.

The result of this visit crystallised on July 24 this year, when the Liberia Eye Center at the John F Kennedy Memorial Medical Centre in Monrovia, the capital city, was formally inaugurated by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. This marked the establishment of a formal eye-care system in the war ravaged country.

For the LV Prasad Eye Institute, the development is a milestone as it takes its services, launched 30 years ago, abroad. The centre in Monrovia is the first eye centre outside India where the institute is involved in the management of the centre. It has helped renovate the Liberia Eye Center with the latest medical equipment.

In this effort it has received support from the Lions Club's International Foundation and Operation Eyesight Universal. Additionally, it is also providing guidance and assistance in human resource planning, recruitment, training and in developing and implementing a countrywide community eye health programme.

In the initial period, an ophthalmologist has been deputed to manage and implement standard operating systems and processes. In the past four months, the centre has examined over 2,000 outpatients and performed over 100 surgeries. LVPEI’s eyeSmart Electronic Medical Record System was installed at the center to help improve the efficiency of eye-care, identify the burden of eye disease, standardise care and quantify the impact delivered.

G.N. Rao said the opening also marked a significant milestone with the first ever corneal transplant surgery performed in the country at the Liberia Eye Center by an ophthalmologist from LVPEI.

After decades of fighting for freedom, justice and equality in Liberia, in 2011 President Sirleaf shared the prestigious Nobel Prize for Peace with two other women – fellow Liberian Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen. More than 50 per cent of the people of the war ravaged nation live below the poverty line and like most infrastructure, healthcare has been severely impacted.

LVPEI felt it was ideally suited to lead an initiative to help build eye-care facilities in Liberia, with 26 years of experience in eye health, having set up a network of comprehensive eye care centres, with a footprint of over 110 across the two Telugu states of Telangana and AP, as well as in Orissa through the establishment of primary, secondary and tertiary eye care centers in 2013, Rao recalled.