December 2013 Mara Outreach written by executive director, Penny Lyons
I am in Musoma, the capital city of Mara Region in northwestern Tanzania. The landscape here is dominated by Lake Victoria – a body of water large enough to affect the area’s climate keeping it more temperate than most of Tanzania. Lake Victoria isn’t ringed by beach homes and resort hotels. The crocodiles, snakes, various water borne parasites and hippos ensure that homes and industry are set back a respectful distance which preserves both its beauty and the fish stocks that provide a livelihood to so many. Kwibusa Village is about an hour drive from Musoma away from the lake and through hills strewn with giant boulders, lush vegetation and simple homes tucked in between the two. The hills look like a wonderful place to hike and I ask Liberetta Thaddeo, the ophthalmic nurse I am sitting beside about going for a walk. She looks at me in disbelief. “Snakes” she says. I forget about the walk.
Kwibusa is the site of this week’s outreach camp where patients are screened for eye problems and referred to the hospital in Musoma if further care is required. With me is Liberetta, David Warriob, ophthalmic nursing officer and Dr. Gendo, a highly skilled and successful cataract surgeon but not an ophthalmologist in the Canadian sense.
Seva Canada donors, including the Canadian International Development Agency (now DFATD), have been supporting Dr. Gendo and his team in Mara through KCCO for nearly two years. The team’s efficiency, quality of care, and well planned and executed outreach strategy to reach those in remote rural areas has resulted in a very successful eye care program. KCCO and Dr. Gendo’s team have also connected with local microfinance groups; training the members to identify eye conditions and refer individuals in their communities to the regularly scheduled outreaches for treatment. This referral system has been highly effective, significantly increasing the number of people attending the eye screening even though the members of the microfinance groups receive no financial benefit from the referrals. On this day, 46 patients were screened and treated and 15 people were identified with cataract and referred to the hospital in Musoma for surgery.