Providing eye care in Africa is full of challenges. Poverty, the shortage of eye specialists and transportation are all major obstacles. Cataracts are the leading cause of treatable blindness in the world. Most people have no idea what is wrong with their eyes or that there is a solution. A 15-minute cataract surgery to remove the clouded lens costs about $50 Cdn and can restore sight. But because cataracts develop gradually and are painless, most people in Africa won't spend the money to travel to hospital to seek help. Even once people know that they can have an operation to restore their sight, there may be a lot of fear and misconception. Hospitals are often viewed as places where you go to die, not to get cured. Moreover, many people have no conception of what cataract surgery is all about. Two of the common beliefs are that doctors will replace your eye with a goat's eye OR that during surgery they'll completely remove your eye, work on it on a table, and then put it back in again. Both pretty scary thoughts... Shamimu, a 5-year-old in Tanzania was going blind from cataracts. After counseling from the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology, she and her family agreed to go for surgery. However, Shamimu was very nervous about the operation because all of her friends told her that she would get goats' eyes. Here's a picture of Shamimu struggling to read and write prior to her successful bilateral eye surgery.
Cataract surgery in Africa: goats' eyes not required
February 28th, 2009