‘As elsewhere in Africa there are few ophthalmologists, with only four for four million people. Ophthalmic services are provided by four hospitals (two government and two voluntary agency) situated in the capital Freetown, Bo, and Lunsar.’ Contrast this with the UK which has about 1 eye doctor for every 25,000 people.
Since this was written 25 years ago, the population of Sierra Leone has increased to about 6 million people, but the eye care services have not kept pace. This means that millions of people do not have access to eye care. The CBM charity estimates that 40,000 people in Sierra Leone are blind. Being blind means that you cannot work and you depend on others to help you. It can leave you feeling isolated and depressed. It also means that children miss out on their education because they are the ones left to look after the blind person. Yet 80% of blindness can be cured or prevented.
Help Madina has trained nurse Augusta Turay, the senior nurse at the Catholic Mission Clinic, to carry out basic eye care. There is an emphasis on dealing with the most common causes of blindness: cataract and blurred vision. Help Madina has linked up with the Baptist Eye Hospital in Lunsar to provide cataract surgery for people in and around Madina. The charity pays for the majority of the patient’s costs.
For many people leaving their village to go to a hospital 4 hours’ drive away is a huge undertaking and the Help Madina staff accompany them to make sure that they arrive safely and are well looked after. The operation can be life changing, for example one of the local tailors in Madina who was unable to work, can now make a living for himself and his family.
Help Madina also provide reading glasses. People aged from about 40 years often need glasses not only for reading but for jobs like sorting rice and some have even come to the clinic from Freetown, the capital to buy spectacles from our clinic.
Other common causes of a visit to the eye clinic are itchy or red eyes for which we can provide good quality medication. Furthermore, the nurse has been trained to remove objects from the eyes such as grains of rice, which can cause blindess.
The impact of a cataract operation or a pair of glasses is huge. In future we hope to provide more people with training and continue our partnership with the hospitals so that even more local people can benefit. Want to support this work? Donate here.