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SPECIAL REPORT: How Non-Profit Organizations Help to End Avoidable Blindness in Kano

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Esther David is not only battling with the aftermath of her husband’s loss 10 years ago as a widow, she partially lost her sight to sugar diabetes and could not afford cataract surgery.

However, Esther got relief on 21 March 2022 when a friend hinted her about the free cataract surgery for the poor and vulnerable at ECWA Eye Hospital, in Kano.

“I started losing my sight shortly after losing my husband 10 years ago. So, I went to the hospital and after several tests, the doctor said I have diabetes, and it affected my eyes,” Esther told Nigeria Info

“After years of battling it due to lack of money for surgery, a friend told me about the free surgery. I’m glad I was included among the patients. They operated me for free, and now I can see again, I’m so happy now,” she said.

Over 94 Million Are Currently Blind Worldwide Due to Cataracts

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cataract is the leading cause of blindness, accounting for 94 million blind people worldwide.

In Nigeria, more than 1 million persons are blind and half of this number live in the North Eastern and North Western parts of the country.

At the Mallam Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), a Federal Government owned hospital in Kano, about 60 new patients are usually diagnosed with cataracts weekly.

This explains the worrisome situation of cataract disease and the need for timely diagnosis and treatment.

Rotary Club of Lagos Island, Geeta Ashram Nigeria Temple, and ECWA Eye Hospital’s Intervention

In 2016, Rotary Club of Lagos Island, Geeta Ashram Nigeria Temple, and ECWA Eye Hospital started free cataract surgery in Kano to help the less privileged who do not have access to expensive surgeries.

The organization, with support from Charity Trust, Serve to Change Lives, TARSADIA Foundation USA, amongst other sponsors, usually tax itself to generate the funds in the week-long mission which caters for hundreds of beneficiaries.

The beneficiaries in the pyramid city and other neighbouring states are usually selected based on the organization’s first come first serve policy, before the affected eyes will be examined to know if it was operable.

The President of the Rotary Club of Lagos Island, Rotarian Kamlesh Jain, said every year, the sight of over 800 patients, who lost their sight to cataracts are restored, making it a total of 5,800 in 6 years.

“We have been doing this since 2016 after hearing about the challenges faced as a result of cataracts, especially in rural areas. Last year we championed free surgery for over 800 persons.

“Since the commencement of the free surgery project 7 years ago, we have conducted a total of 5,800 free surgeries,” he added. 

The Medical Director of ECWA Eye Hospital, Dr. Atima Mayor notes that since the start of the project in 2016, all the surgeries was successful.

“One of the reasons this project is successful it’s that we carefully examine the patients to make sure the cataract is operable before selecting them. All the surgeries for the 5,800 patients were all successful”.

Dr. Mayor further said at the end of the surgery, “the patients were given free dark shades to protect their eyes from the sunlight.”

Impact of the Intervention

Habiba Muhammad Zakirai, a resident of Zakirai Community in Gabasawa Local Government Area in Kano State is currently running her small chops business after her sight was restored, courtesy of the organizations and the Eye Hospital.

Like Esther, Habiba could barely see after her vision got worsened over the previous six months as a result of cataracts.

“I sell small chops in primary schools. Whenever they give me money after buying my snacks, I ended up giving them extra change because I could not see clearly.

“But after the free surgery, nobody can cheat me again because I can see clearly now”.

The representative of Geeta Ashram Nigeria Temple, Mr Manu Lalwani revealed that the project would be conducted twice every year to address avoidable eyes defect in the state.

“We usually conduct the project in March and October every year, so expect us with another project. Like I said earlier, it’s a continuous project”.

Mr. Lalwani however stressed that emphasis must be placed on the rural areas where most cataract patients are battling with blindness.

“We are hoping to get more patients in the rural areas because, to be honest, you would find thousands of them there,” he noted.

A Consultant Ophthalmologist with AKTH, Dr. Sadik Hassan buttresses Mr. Lalwani's point, insisting that “thousands of persons suffering from cataracts in the rural areas alone are yet to be diagnosed”.

Dr. Hassan however says “the hospital, with the support of some politicians in the state,” is partnering every year to restore the sight of some of the affected patients adding that “from 2019 till date, we have conducted free surgeries to about 1,000 patients”.

Kano State Government’s/NGOs Efforts 

Kano State Government also partnered with Al-Basar Foundation and Mamma Eye Specialist Hospital, in May, 2021 and launched a free eye screening in Tysanyawa Local Government Area where the sights of 100 cataract patients were restored.

The project, according to the government, would be conducted bi-annually to address avoidable blindness caused by cataracts. 

However, as both private and government agencies are making moves to ensure a blindless society, it is expected of individuals to complement the move by often going for eye diagnosis.

Have you ever gone for an eye diagnosis? Make a step today because health, they say is wealth!


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