Eye Surgery Camp, Galcayo, Somalia

April 13, 2011

Eye Surgery Camp, Galcayo, Somalia © Siegfried Modola

What: MSF has successfully completed another special “eye surgery camp”, aimed at giving hundreds of Somali’s back their sight. This is the third time MSF has set-up this camp in close cooperation with the Al-Nur Foundation.

Between the 5th to the 28th of March the organisations screened 3,137 people and operated on 486 of them (230 male and 256 female), essentially giving people back their vision. Just over 1,100 patients that did not require an operational intervention received eye drops and glasses. The screening; treatment and surgeries were conducted by 4 surgeons; 2 managers and 12 ophthalmic technicians

For the first time the involved organisations were able to use state of the art equipment in Somalia by using keratometry and A-scan to measure the power of the lense of each patient. Phaco-emulsification equipment to do the cataract surgeries were also used for the first time in Somali history. This, together with stringent case selection and theatre sterility meant good visual outcome for the patients. Two post-operation follow-up examinations have been scheduled in. One 3 days after the surgery and on the 10th and the 11th of May patients will return for their follow-up examination to have their vision measured and eyes will be assessed after which the final discharge of the patients will be made.

Why: Eye problems, like many other health issues in Somalia, often go untreated. Internal conflict, a dilapidated healthcare system, and chronic poverty all take a serious toll on people’s ability to access healthcare. The situation is compounded by a lack of surgeons throughout the country as a whole, most of who are concentrated in Mogadishu, around 730km from Galcayo.

Meanwhile, eye problems, such as the common cataract (clouding in the lens of the eye), can all too often lead to blindness if untreated. The impact on people’s lives is devastating especially in a country where in general many people face a daily struggle to survive. Thus, eye surgery can have a huge impact on the lives of patients, improving their ability to live a dignified and healthy life.

Where: The eye surgery took place in Galcayo located in the centre of Somalia. The town and its surrounding region have an estimated population of around 300,000 people. The town is divided according to tribal and ethnic lines in a northern and southern part, both with independent authorities controlling the town. A demarcation line divides Galcayo and people rarely travel to the other side.

The initial screening in South Galcayo took place in the Al Sha’ab secondary school after which surgery took place in MSF’s South Galcayo’s hospital from 22nd to 24th of March.

Another screening and surgery session took place in North Galcayo’s MSF’s Mudug regional hospital in North Galcayo from the 25th to 28th of March.

The surgery camp comes in addition to MSF’s regular programme in Galcayo where it delivers free medical service delivered by a team of 254 committed Somali staff providing lifesaving care to patients, some of who travel from as far away as Ethiopia to access care: Services include paediatric care; maternity care, emergency obstetric care; therapeutic feeding; tuberculosis treatment and surgery, amongst other things.

In 2010 alone, MSF teams in north and south Galcayo provided 83,621 medical consultations, delivered 1,316 babies, vaccinated over 5,871 people, performed 98 major surgeries (excluding the eye camp surgeries), and treated 699 patients for tuberculosis.

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