Windows to the world

30 Aug 2010

Windows to the world

Twelve-year-old Sedigah saw her mother, Ashadom, for the first time in eight years when she woke up from an eye operation at a hospital in Mornei, West Darfur.

"Mother, I see your face, is it real or am I dreaming?" the young girl exclaimed, hugging Ashadom and beginning to cry.

Blinded at age four from an illness, Sedigah had now regained sight in one of her eyes. In a month, the medical team would operate on the other.

To obtain treatment for Sedigah, the mother and daughter, members of a nomadic pastoralist tribe, made an arduous, five-day trip by donkey across the arid semi-desert of West Darfur.

"One night in my dreams I had a vision and spoke with God - will my daughter be able to see again in her life? I never thought those people in white vehicles would make my dream come true," said the grateful mother.

Seeing the happy face of Sedigah, Director General of Alwalidian Charity Eye Hospital Dr Isam Babiker said nothing could have given him more joy.

"All we need is a small room to do the eye surgery and a committed team - and people will regain their sight," said Dr. Babider, an ophthamologic surgeon by profession.

More than 11,000 people have received treatment from mobile eye clinics this year in West Darfur. Funded by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the clinics are run by implementing partner HelpAge International.
Described as "windows to the world", eyes allow us to experience our surroundings and move around with ease. But care for these vital organs is difficult to obtain in much of the world, and people suffer from treatable ailments or even go blind from preventable illnesses.
Sixty-seven-year-old Abdollah Yahya, a refugee from eastern Chad, underwent surgery last year at Um Shalaya refugee camp near Mornei, which greatly improved sight in her right eye. Now she hopes to repair the vision in her left eye. The medical care, she said, will restore independence and make it easier to care for her family.
Eye care at the mobile clinics is provided free of charge to IDPs, host communities, pastoralists and refugees. The mobile teams with their experienced staff from Alwalidian Charity Eye Hospital in Khartoum and El Geneina Eye Hospital in West Darfur include one ophthalmic surgeon, a medical doctor, and an anesthetist.
The conditions they treat may be infections, allergies, cataracts, trachoma, and glaucoma. More than 9,850 people have been treated this year and 1,133 have had intraocular lens transplants as a result of cataracts or failing vision. Another 293 people have been operated on for trachoma, an infectious disease that is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness.
Adam Abdalla Noreen, a 74-year-old Sudanese man living at Krinding internally displaced person (IDP) camp, was blind until a cataract was surgically removed from one eye. "Now I can do my five prayers in the mosque easily. I will tell the people in Krinding to pray and thank God for their eyes."
In addition to improving their sight or restoring vision to blind people, the clinic also brought communities together and boosted co-existence, according to Abbas Haidarbaigi, UNHCR Head of Office in Mornei.
"This includes co-existence between host communities, IDPs, nomads, refugees and tribes - particularly at the local level. The patients who were examined and had surgery were a combination of these groups, with most of them being elders," the UNHCR official said.