As part of a project prepared by the Humanitarian Aid Association (İHH), Foundation for Solidarity and Desert Doctors and supported by the Turkish Health Ministry and the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA), Turkish doctors working in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum are performing an average of 40 operations a day on Sudanese patients with cataract problems.
Despite ongoing efforts to combat the problem in recent years, cataract disease has continued to spread steadily throughout Africa. Linked with climate factors, insufficient nutrition and poor hygiene conditions, cataract disease leaves its victims, many of whom are already battling basic struggles like famine, in complete darkness. In Sudan, which has one of Africa's highest cataract rates, it is estimated that around 2 million people have serious cataract problems, leaving some blind from birth while others lose their sight later in life.
For thousands of people in Sudan, Turkish organizations supporting the struggle against cataract disease have become "rays of hope." The Turkish-backed "Africa Cataract Project" has built a new surgical facility at Martyr El Maz Eye Hospital in where volunteer Turkish doctors perform operations on an average 40 cataract patients a day. Currently, the cadre of medical specialists serving the scores of Sudanese patients includes four Turkish doctors, two Sudanese doctors and a crew of eight assistants, four of whom are Turks. Long lines form in front of the hospital ever day, with patients of all ages coming in to seek help for their cataract problems.
Dr. Metin Varol is the coordinator of the Africa Cataract Project and he explains that for the personnel involved in this venture, the source of motivation is simply the reactions and expressions of happiness from patients who can finally see after living for years in darkness. Varol describes one of the unforgettable sights he and his team have encountered during the project, saying: "There was one woman who had not been able to see for about 10 years due to her cataracts. Finally, after the operation we performed, she was able to set eyes on her children -- one five years old, the other seven years old -- that she had raised. This was just one of the unforgettable memories from this experience..." Varol goes on to explain that the patients in Sudan were being operated on through the assistance of monetary donations. The cost of each cataract operation is about YTL 100 and the project is running a fundraising campaign for the operations. "We let people know by text message or email when a patient is operated on using the money they have donated to our campaign. We also send a certificate of thanks with a photograph of the patient to people who have donated money, so that they can see the person who they have helped emerge from darkness into light. Not only this, but our operations can also be viewed live on the Internet at http://africatr.viewnetcam.com."
Varol says that so far, 5,000 people have had cataract operations under the project, which started one year ago, and that doctors wishing to volunteer for the project can apply to do so; the volunteer doctors rotate on a regular basis.
The work of the Africa Cataract Project received extra attention in Khartoum recently when Sudanese and Turkish officials gathered to promote and analyze some of the steps taken against cataract disease as part of the project. Dr. Kamal Abdel Gadir, undersecretary of the Sudanese Health Ministry, spoke about some of the steps planned by his government to fight the disease, including plans to open 25 hospitals in Sudanese provinces and increase the number of cataract operations taking place. Abdel Gadir also stressed the resolution of Sudanese officials to take precautions against conditions thought to provoke cataract. For his part, Dr. Kamal Hashimi of the Sudanese Struggle Against Blindness Project explained that every four minutes in Sudan, one person contracted cataract disease. Hashimi said that 200,000 people needed cataract operations annually and that the Sudanese government was planning on setting aside $12 million of its budget to address this problem.
Last Mod: 02 Nisan 2008, 12:10
Turkish Ambassador to Sudan Fatih Ceylan noted that the support of state organizations behind the Africa Cataract Project played a large role in the project's success and that Ankara had relayed its wishes for the continuation of the accomplishments seen so far in Khartoum in the fight against cataract disease.