De Aar, Northern Cape: This week will see hundreds of people undergo life-changing cataract operations, through a special camp set up by the KwaZulu-Natal Eye Care Coalition and the Northern Cape Department of Health.
Funded by Transnet, the camp is expected to perform about 200 free cataract surgeries, performed by three internationally recognized Indian Ophthalmologists flown in especially for the event.
“We were very happy to secure the services of these three surgeons,” said Moosa Salamaan, Project Manager of the KZN Eye Care Coalition. “There are very few eye surgeons in South Africa and even fewer in the Northern Cape; a province which has only three surgeons and a population of over a million people,” he said. “This means that there is a serious back-log in the public health division and people have been living with avoidable blindness for years while on the waiting list for cataract surgeries. Running this camp is a perfect way to help alleviate this problem and restore sight to those who desperately need it,” he said.
And the surgeries are desperately needed. According to Salamaan, cataracts are one of the most common causes of avoidable blindness world-wide. “This is a problem because avoidable blindness and poverty are interlinked; people living with cataracts battle to see well enough to maintain their jobs, which results in them sinking further and further into poverty,” he explained. “Therefore, it is no over-exaggeration to say that these cataract surgeries are life-changing.”
Head of the Northern Cape Department of Health, Gugu Matlaopane, is thrilled with the partnership. “We are consolidating service-delivery in this particular National Health Insurance Site, which is situated in the Pixley ka Seme district,” she said. However, according to Matlaopane, the Northern Cape Department of Health is not in a position to render eye care services to very remote communities, of which Pixley ka Seme is one.
“We are therefore reliant on non-governmental organizations to assist in reducing blindness in these communities,” she said. Our partnership with the KZN Eye Care Coalition is a wonderful example of how government and NGOs can work together to deliver much-needed services to the people who usually have no access to health care,” she said.
The cataract camp would not have been possible without the generous funding of Transnet. “Transnet is proud to be associated with the cataract camp, primarily in the knowledge that our support will go a long way in countering avoidable blindness and improve the general quality of life” says Cynthia Mgijima, Head of the Transnet Foundation.
Last week, screenings were conducted on patients to determine who would need to undergo the surgeries, and the three surgeons, Dr. Jagannath Boramani, Dr. Amulya Sahu and Dr. Swati Zawar arrived in the country on the 27th April. The camp will run from the 29th April to the 3rd May.