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The ups and downs of Cameroon’s cataract bond

ImpactAlpha, June 13 – The Cameroon Cataract Bond is providing high-quality treatment to thousands of patients, but is not reaching enough of the country’s poorest of the poor. That’s the Year One verdict on the $2 million development impact bond launched last year to provide surgeries to treat cataracts, a leading cause of blindness and visual impairment.

The bond finances up to 18,000 eye surgeries in Cameroon over five years (some 48,000 eye surgeries are needed each year). The bond provides upfront funding to Magrabi ICO Cameroon Eye Institute to perform the surgeries. According to the Overseas Private Investment Corp., which financed the bond with the Netri Foundation, the institute screened 50,000 patients and conducted 2,300 surgeries in its first year. Quality of the surgeries exceeded World Health Organization standards.

Why Latin America is ripe for impact bonds

One miss: Less than 30% of the patients were from the country’s poorest two groups, short of the 40% target. “The project is working to better understand the barriers people face and develop strategies to increase access for the poorest,” OPIC said in a statement.

If the hospital meets five-year performance targets, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Fred Hollows Foundation and Sightsavers will repay the financiers with interest and provide an incentive to the hospital.

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