A recent study of World Health Organization/WHO/estimates that there are about 38 million blind people in the world. The situation is worse when we think of Africa, particularly sub-saharan countries. As the study shows, this figure is estimated to be 7 million in Africa. The leading cause of blindness in almost every country is cataract. The study also indicates approximately half of all blindness is caused by cataract.
Regarding this issue, health experts point out that cataract is also a serious problem of many people in Ethiopia. To alleviate such sight related problems, the University of Gondar Health Science College Ophthalmology Department is doing its best in the community outreach programs in various parts of the country. Some of the areas which are being assisted are: Benshagul Gumuz Region, Awi Zone, Debark Woreda, and East Belesa Woreda.
Recently, a campaign against cataract and trachoma was conducted at Gohala Primary Hospital, East Belesa Woreda from 19-23 February 2018. It was conducted by the University of Gondar , Orbis International Ethiopia , Carter Center and other partners. This campaign was unique as it was successful in regaining the sight of many people in a recently launched hospital. East Belesa Woreda is located far from Gondar town. As health professionals of Gohala Hospital explained, unfortunately the woreda is remote and has very hot air conditions and scarce water supply. These situations put the community at high risk of eye diseases.
Doctor Asamere Tsegaw, one of the surgeons involved in the campaign, was busy of performing cataract surgery when speaking on this issue. He stated, “As a result of sight loss due to eye diseases, many children were isolated from their education, many elders were unable to move outside their home, many farmers were unable to farm their lands and many house wives were even not able to prepare food for their beloved family.” “To me”, added the doctor, “There is nothing worth replacing the sight of people and helping them able to see each other, move and lead their lives.”
The other participant of the campaign, Ms. Kedist Degefaw, is one of the Optical Technicians at the University of Gondar who involved in diagnosing those who have sight difficulty and supplying optical materials/ eye glasses/. She said, “The eye glasses are so expensive that most people cannot afford them; it is also difficult to travel farther and get the services particularly for those who have sight problems.” Therefore, said kedist, “It gives me great pleasure to serve the community.”
Many people who were totally unable to see were able to see after the treatment. A man called Aba Melkamu EshetIe, one of those who got parallel surgery of cataract and able to see said, “As I heard that the University of Gondar is giving eye care treatment at Gohala Hospital, I came; both of my eyes could not see.” “I cannot believe this has been done by man; this is God sent deed,” added the man. The crowd clapped and thanked for all those who involved in the campaign. A man came towards us and said, “Look! This is my child; both of his eyes could not see before; he used to sit at home while his friends attend school. I burst in to tears when I think of this!” The man added, “Now, his eyes can see; now he can play, now he can attend school with his friends, now he can see his mother and me! We paid nothing for all these services; let God pay you; God bless you!”
These people had lived without their sight and feeling the pain for ages. Seeing the joy and gratitude of those people whose eyes were brightened and relived from the pain meant more than pleasure for the staff of the University Gondar and its partners. The President of the University of Gondar, Dr. Desalegn Mengesha, the V/President for Research and Community Service ,Prof. Mersha Chanie, and the V/President of College of medicine Health Sciences and Hospital, Dr. Sisay Yifru were there to follow up the campaign. Dr. Fiseha Admasu, Chief Clinical Director at the University of Gondar Referral Hospital and the Branch Manager of Orbis International Ethiopia, Mr. Semalign Abew were also there for close support.
Recalling the material and various supports done by the university, the manager of Gohala Hospital, Mr. Zemene Habtu and the Woreda Administarator Mr.Jember Ayalneh expressed great gratitude on the behalf of the community for those health professionals and staff members of the university. As Mr. Zemene explained, in the campaign that lasted five days, trachoma surgery was done for 225 people; cataract surgery was performed for 200 people while 163 people got eyeglasses and 7973 people got other eye related treatments. M.r Zemene and Mr. Jember reminded the university that such campaigns against eye diseases and other supports should be continuous.
Eventually, President of UoG Dr. Desalegn Mengesha affirmed that the campaign was completely successful and expressed his appreciation for the team of the campaign. He also thanked the non- governmental partners of the university that played great role in the campaign such as, Orbis International Ethiopia,Light for the World, Carter Center, Soleil D‘Afrique and others. Concluding his speech, Dr. Desalegn said, “Our outreach programs in various community based issues will continue in a better way in this zone and the surrounding zones.”
The College of Medicine and Health Sciences and Hospital is committed in providing societal needs tailored education, problem based research and relevant community services. To achieve its mission, the institution is conducting huge movements on eye care in many parts of the Amhara region and other areas. The fistula-training center and the leishmaniases /kalazar research centers are also performing much for the advancement of health care in the country and Africa as a whole. Hence, all these performances show that the institution is stepping forward to accomplish its mission.
By Destaw Wagnew
Editor: Samuel Malede
Public and International Relations Directorate