Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Israeli humanitarians restore sight in Amhara

A humanitarian group from Israel called ‘Eye from Zion’ conducted a benevolent medical service in Gondar and Debark towns of the Amhara Regional states from March 17 to 25, 2012. This is the second time the Israeli group conducted its benevolent act in Ethiopia during the last three months. The team of six medical doctors sponsored by the Israeli Agency for International Development Cooperation and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee performed eye surgery and cataracts operations and glaucoma for more than 150 people in just three days. 
“I am just removing a very dense cataract and putting an artificial lens inside the eye of our patient after we removed the lens in their eye. Everything is ok now. We have completed the operation successfully. What we have done this morning will actually improve her sight significantly. She will be able to see again in a day, even though the cuts from the surgery will take two weeks to heal. Tomorrow when we open her eye, she will see the world again. Since she has a very dense cataract, we have just extracted it. Cataract is a severe opacity of the lens. When the lens is opaque, a patient can not see because the opacity blocks its vision. So, what we have to do is remove the opaque lens and then put a new artificial lens instead,” said Dr. Bachar Irit while performing an operation for an elderly woman at Gonder University Hospital last Wednesday.
“This kid has a very big eye. It is caused by congenital glaucoma from birth. The kid is almost blind in one eye but the nerves are usable and we can save his eye. Such a big eye is a sign that every ophthalmologist can diagnose immediately. We are operating both of the eyes of this child. I hope it will help him. Otherwise, he would be blind in a year. The pressures that push his eyes out also slow down for the rest of his life. For adults we operate only one eye and leave the other eye for local doctors but for children we operate on both eyes,” said Dov Wienberg (Prof), Head of Ophthalmology Department at Robin Medical Center in Israel while operating on the eyes of a four-year old child.   
The team has not only provided surgery service but also provided training and lectures about new technologies in eye surgery.
“The first mission of our stay here is providing operation for visually impaired people. The second is to train local doctors on how to use a new eye surgery machine. I insist to do it here. And the third one is to teach. We brought lecture materials to teach here. I hope we will achieve all of our goals,” added the 62 years old professor who has served for last 35 years as an ophthalmologist.
Their Ethiopian counterpart, Yared Assefa (Dr), head of Gonder University Ophthalmology Department, says on his part: 
“Regarding skill transfer, there are skills that can be transferred to us. But we also have veteran medical staff working with volunteers. They are acquainted with the latest eye operation technology such as the mollification machines which are used to operate on cataracts. And they are training us on using this technology,” said Yared whom Capital found working among the volunteers.
It costs an individual less than 1000 birr to have a cataract operation in public hospitals here in Ethiopia while its costs more than 1,500 dollars in Israel. The private hospital in Ethiopia costs an individual from 1,500 to 4,000 birr per person based on the severity, according to experts in the health industry.      
In February this year, a humanitarian group from Israel called Khan Foundation provided similar successful eye surgeries for 160 people in South Omo Zone of the Southern Nation Nationalities and Peoples Regional State.
The Israeli Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) was founded in 1957 under the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It works on capacity building in developing countries by sharing Israel’s development experience and expertise. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is a Jewish humanitarian assistance organization that works in more than 70 countries. JDC works to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescuing Jews in danger, creates lasting connection to Jewish life, and provides immediate relief and long term development support for victims of natural and man-made disasters.