The life changing impact of cataract surgery in Ethiopia
Avoidable blindness is a major issue in Ethiopia, including blindness caused by cataracts and a widespread eye infection called trachoma. It is a particular problem in remote rural areas where there is a lot of poverty and the healthcare system is not as accessible. Along with our partner, HelpAge International Ethiopia, we have been working to help strengthen the health system and provide eyecare outreach to older people.
Last year, working with an eye care unit, we conducted an outreach programme in rural Borena, Oromia, promoting eye care and providing older people with eye examinations, treatment, and surgery.
With HelpAge International, we raised awareness of the project and eye health in town centres, marketplaces and the community, and were able to reach even more older people using radio broadcasts in local languages. In four weeks, over 2,700 people received an eye care examination and screening.
We distributed 100 pairs of glasses and were able to provide eye care medicine and ointments to over 1000 people, as well as identifying those with glaucoma and advising them to attend regular follow-up appointments. Almost 250 of the older people we screened went on to have cataract surgeries, 60 had surgeries for trichiasis (a complication of trachoma), and 32 people had other minor surgeries.
One of the many older people we were able to help during the programme was 60-year-old Mohammed. Mohammed lives in Borena with his wife and three children. He used to earn a living looking after cattle until he suffered a serious illness and then went on to totally lose his sight. No longer able to work, and with his wife busy caring for him and their children, the family became entirely reliant on the meagre support their relatives and family were able to provide.
Then last year, Mohammed’s sister and nephew were out at the marketplace when they heard about our eyecare project. They decided to take Mohammed to the hospital immediately, in the hope that his sight problems could be treated.
As soon as Mohammed arrived, he was given priority for screening and the eyecare team were able to diagnose his visual problem and cataracts. He underwent cataract surgery the following day. When his eye patch was removed and he realised that he could see again, he praised God and gave thanks to all those who were involved in bringing back his vision and his hope.
Mohammed is just one of many older people helped by the project, but his story shows what a difference an eyecare examination and routine cataract surgery can make to the life of an older person in a poor and remote area.
This project was made possible thanks to the generous donations of our supporters.
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