1 June 2010

In Somalia it is not only the elderly who suffer from blindness - the young are also affected. In a country that has been plagued by violence and conflict for decades, with little or no quality medical services and only a small number of qualified doctors and nurses, preventable and treatable eye problems can quickly develop into complete loss of sight.

In Galcayo, in northern Somalia, a surgeon born and raised in Mogadishu, who is now based in the UK, returned to his homeland at the end of April to perform life-changing eye surgeries. Supported by MSF, Dr. Abdirisak Dalmar, Head of Training and Research at ‘Right to Sight’, along with his team, treated over 3000 people and performed 626 operations – essentially giving people back their sight.

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

The eye camp took place at MSF’s exceptionally busy hospital in Galcayo South, the only free medical service in the area. Here, a team of 144 committed Somali staff provide 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 addition, MSF runs tuberculosis and nutritional clinics in Galcayo North.

In 2009 alone, MSF teams in north and south Galcayo provided around 42,000 medical consultations, delivered nearly 1,000 babies, vaccinated over 13,000 people, performed 360 surgeries, and treated more than 800 patients for tuberculosis.