Eye for Africa, an Australia based nongovernmental organization, has made 190 cataract surgeries in Harari Regional State in its second trip to the area since it has began its operation in Ethiopia in 2007. The team of 21 volunteers has also made 875 screenings for trachoma cases of whom 500 received treatment, 62 orthopedic surgeries, 380 outpatient services, 90 antenatal check ups for pregnant women and 130 people received home visits by medical professionals in the city of Harar, some 520 kilometer east of Addis Ababa.
The free medical service project was coordinated by Dr. Jamal Yusuf who lives in Australia for the past 22 years. Dr. Jamal who specializes in internal medicine works as a family physician.
The team composed of 11 eye surgeons, five orthopedists, an antenatal, a freight man, and a photographer spent 15 days in Harar providing their professional services for free. The team has also covered all its costs for transport, accommodation, and food all the way from Australia, Canada and the USA.
After accomplishing their benevolent professional duty in Harar last Monday, they traveled to Mizan Teferi in the Southern Nation Nationality and people’s Regional state (SNNPR) to provide similar services for another two weeks. Eye for Africa also plans to travel to Jinka and Turmi in southern Omo zone of SNNPR in October this year.
In their stay at Mizan Teferi, they hope to perform 200 cataract surgeries and screening for treatable eye conditions like infection, trachoma, and TT surgery.
Another team of experts from Australia has conducted similar surgery intervention in Harar for 193 people in 2010, also organized by Dr. Jamal Yusuf. The number of participating doctors has doubled from seven then to 14 this year.
Asked how he got into this project, Dr. Jamal explains that his decision to come back and help others, less fortunate, was influenced by two incidents; one is the unfortunate incident during the Harar Millennium celebrations that needed his father’s immediate evacuation to the hospital. He was very much shocked by the bare ambulance that came to collect his father who had a heart condition, with no amenities to give first aid on the way. He was further shaken seeing the status of the Jegol Hospital, one of the first hospitals in the country, under-equipped. Then he was affected when he met an old friend who had difficulty recognizing him, due to poor eye sight, which, he said, is easily reparable with a quick cataract surgery. He felt that he needed to do something and launched himself in the planning and organizing of these medical trips to Ethiopia.
Wanting to do his part to help his fellow citizens in whatever way he could, he started searching for colleagues to cooperate with, to raise fund and organize the whole project. He came to know of the operation of ‘Eye for Africa’ project in Ethiopia, who was already coming to Butajira, 130 Km from Addis Ababa for several years.
Eye for Africa was founded by Julie Tayres in 2007, a nurse by profession who has 32 years of experience in the patient care profession.
In collaboration with Julie Tayres, Dr. Jamal then started organizing the team of doctors to come to Ethiopia and help not only with direct medical treatment but also organize the antenatal and orthopedic ward in the hospital. For that, he invited Mr. Razif Amiroel, a surgeon, to help evaluate the need of the hospital to develop these departments.
Dr. Jamal also aspires to connect Harar Medical School with Melbourne School of Medicine and Royal College of Surgeon. Both schools are based in Australia.
Tayres has been serving selflessly underprivileged people in Ethiopia since 2007. She has been paying a visit to Ethiopia since then twice or three times a year, mostly in the Southern Nation Nationality and Peoples Regional State, particularly in South Omo zone of the country.
Born in Harar, Dr Jemal attended his primary school in Harar before moving to Addis Ababa at a young age and joined the then Teferi Mekonnen Secondary school (currently Entoto Vocational Training College) from grade six to 11. He fled the country following the outbreak of Red Terror in mid 70s for Egypt, where he received his first degree in medicine from Cairo University, before moving to Australia, where he currently resides.