Eye surgery camp with 'Right To Sight' returns vision to hundreds in Galcayo, Somalia

Dr. Abdirisak Ahmed Dalmar: Dr. Dalmar is Consultant Ophthalmologist & Head of Training and Research at 'Right to Sight', an international eye charity working to support eye care projects in India and Africa. Having trained in Somalia, his twenty-five year’s experience has seen him working in a variety of health settings throughout Africa and the United Kingdom, along with academic work as visiting Senior Lecturer of Community Ophthalmology and Medical Statistics at Benadir University Medical College, Somalia; Clinical Research Fellow at the International Centre for Eye Health in London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and manager for a research clinic in Dar es Salam, Tanzania. Dr. Dalmar has worked together with MSF for many years, most recently as chairman of the Mudug Development Organization supporting MSF’s South Galkacyo Hospital in Central Somalia.

Dr. Abdullahi Adan Mohamoud: Known as Dr. Maslah, MSF’s house surgeon in Galcayo graduated from Banadir University in 2008, among the first group of doctors to graduate in Somalia since the fall of Siyad Barre. Soon after, he went to Medina hospital to gain specialist training in surgery, facilitated by MSF. At Galcayo hospital Dr. Maslah provides the only free surgical care available for hundreds of kilometres. His job sees him working around the clock, performing around 40 surgeries every month, for conditions ranging from violent trauma to day to day medical conditions.

MSF has successfully completed a special eye surgery camp, aimed at giving hundreds of Somali’s back their sight. Between April 21 to 29,MSF, working together with Dr. Dalmar (a Somali Consultant Ophthalmologist & Head of Training and Research at ‘Right to Sight’ ), screened around 3,000 people and operated on more than 600 of them essentially giving people back their vision.

Eye problems, like many other health issues in Somalia, often go untreated. 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 the country as a whole, most of whom are concentrated in Mogadishu, around 730km from Galcayo.

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

The eye surgery 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 life-saving 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.