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Large numbers of people suffer from cataracts and other eye diseases in Bolivia, a country that lacks money and doctors for preventive eye care, a Utah official who visited the country says.

Richard V. Bohman, director of professional services for the Utah Division of Services for the Visually Handicapped, recently visited Bolivia to help establish services there for the blind and visually impaired.Traveling for the Utah-Bolivia Partners at the expense of the partners' parent organization, Partners of the Americas, Washington, D.C., Bohman met with various physicians, including Dr. Edgar Pozo, the Bolivian minister of health and visited two schools for the blind in La Paz.

Two Braille writers and two boxes of eyeglasses, which will be distributed free to Bolivians in need, were shipped to that country after Bohman returned to Utah.

One of the Bolivian ophthalmologists, Dr. Joel Moya, a close friend and colleague of Pozo, spent more than a month in Utah. He returned to his country Wednesday after studying Utah services for the blind and visually


Moya visited the Workshop for the Blind, a private nonprofit program; conferred with Grant Mack, the National Industries for the Blind; met with Utah physicians; and observed cataract and other eye surgery in Salt Lake and American hospitals.

Moya will organize a council for the blind, which in turn will establish workshop, educational and other services in the country, where an estimated 24,000 people are legally blind and 2,500 have no sight.

The other two Bolivian physicians, Drs. Jose Gutierrez and Jaime Rivero, will visit Utah this spring. Together the three doctors will work with the partners to improve services for the blind and partially sighted in Bolivia. Bohman, who speaks and writes Spanish, said the two Bolivian schools for the blind have no educational materials and no resources to fund them for students attending the schools.

On a medical note, he said "people often don't get proper medical attention in Bolivia. Many times their eye diseases could be treated successfully if they sought medical attention earlier. Having made contact with the three physicians and others, we feel a much greater effort will now be made to assist those in need," Bohman said.

Through the years the Utah-Bolivia Partners have sponsored many school-building, agricultural, dental and other projects in Bolivia. But the current effort is the first project of its kind organized to serve the blind or handicapped. The Utah Partners are headed by Dan Judd, Farmington, a Salt Lake businessman.

"We are working directly with the people and are not dependent on government," Bohman said.