Restoring Sight in Somalia

An MSF "eye surgery camp" in Somalia recently helped more than 600 Somalis regain their sight. Eye problems, like many health issues in Somalia, often go untreated. A theoretically manageable problem such as the common cataract—clouding in the lens of the eye—can therefore lead to blindness. In a country already beset by conflict and poverty, losing one's vision is devastating. If the resources are there, however, a simple surgery can quickly and vastly improve one's ability to live a dignified and healthy life.

From April 21 to April 29, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) conducted an "eye surgery camp" that sought to return sight to hundreds of Somalis. Working with Dr. Abdirisak Ahmed Dalmar, the Somali-born Consultant Ophthalmologist & Head of Training and Research at Right to Sight, the project screened 3,000 people and operated on more than 600.

The surgery took place at MSF's exceptionally busy hospital in Galcayo South, the only free medical service in the area, where MSF's team of 144 committed Somali staff provide lifesaving care to patients, some of who travel from as far away as Ethiopia to access pediatric care, maternity care, emergency obstetric care, therapeutic feeding programs, tuberculosis treatment and surgery. In addition, MSF runs tuberculosis and nutritional clinics in Galcayo North.

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