For Juliet Gileema, an ophthalmic nurse in Kenya’s Busia County, eye health is about more than just restoring people’s sight – it is about restoring their livelihood and dignity.
At an eye camp supported by The Fred Hollows Foundation, Juliet recalls the case of a widow whose blindness had robbed her of more than her sight.
“She was left with a big chunk of land but due to the cataract she was not able to see. So she had been blind for over 10 years and the grandchildren used to come and sell off portions of her land.”
After cataract surgery, the woman regained her sight and was able to take steps to regain her land.
This case demonstrates the long-lasting impact of ophthalmic surgeons and nurses trained by The Fred Hollows Foundation with the support of the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
“It makes a big difference because we find that the patient who gets the help from The Foundation, they are able to be involved in income-generating activities,” Jane said.
Research commissioned by The Fred Hollows Foundation estimates that for every dollar invested in community eye health, four dollars goes back to the local economy.
This investment in training, equipment and outreach camps is already making a difference, according to Dr Kalid Mumanyi, an ophthalmologist working in Busia County. Dr Mumanyi estimates he has performed more than 3000 cataract surgeries since graduating from university in 2011.
At the eye camp, Dr Mumanyi has notched up another 18 surgeries and expects to perform more the next day.
“Many of the people here rely on farming and fishing, especially the people who live near the lake. So you can imagine what happens when you are not able to see. It has really affected the economic productivity of the area.”
Dr Mumanyi believes The Foundation’s efforts, in partnership with Australian aid funding, to train ophthalmologists, nurses and also fund equipment and eye camps to places is lowering the prevalence of blindness and helping break the cycle of poverty for thousands of people in Busia County.