THAF expands eye-surgery program to The Amhara and Tigray regions – (more than 3,000 cataract surgeries performed this past year).  

by | Oct 30, 2023

Deeply saddened by the devastation wrecked by the recent civil unrest and war in Ethiopia, THAF remain committed to care for the poorest of the poor and disabled. For security reasons Dr. Samuel has had to temporarily cut back his outreach eye-camps to the Oromia region, and this forced us to consider alternate options.  We have certainly experienced that such crisis can enable us to discover new opportunities.

At time of conflict and war it is always the disabled who suffer the most. THAF is committed to use local resources to provide relief and care – when we can do so safely. The US state department advises against travel for foreigners outside of the capital, Addis Ababa, but we have been able to work with trusted locals to continue our work, where and when it is possible to do so.

Adu Worku is a native of Ethiopia who is retired from a career in Education in California (at PUC).  He has committed in his retirement to give back to his native village, the region where he grew up, and far beyond. THAF has supported some of his projects in the past (including a water project in his village, a dormitory for girls at the school they built, and several motorized flower mills)

Encouraged by the board of THAF, Adu contacted the ophthalmology department at the Gondar University Hospital and told them about Dr. Samuels out-reach Eye-Camps.  The group was excited to try the concept and conducted their first THAF-sponsored Eye-Camp in October of 2022. We partnered with the Carter Center (President Carters foundation committed to eradicate trachoma – an eye-infection that turns eye-lids inward – eventually causing blindness). The team was therefore able to provide comprehensive Eye Care which included refraction and distribution of reading-glasses when appropriate, trachoma surgery (everting eye-lids) and cataract surgeries. Local authorities helped with spreading the word and providing transportation to the eye-camps.  Adu Worku also established a relationship with an Eye surgery team in Barhir Dar and a similar arrangement were developed there.  Security concerns have plagued this Amhara region recently, and since this summer we have had to temporarily scale back and conduct smaller out-reach events in the region, so as to attract less attention to assure safety for the staff.

Tigray is the Northern-most province in Ethiopia, bordering Eritrea.  From November 2020 to November 2022 the region was ravaged by civil war. It is reported that 90% of the hospitals and clinics were looted and some destroyed.  Such conflicts affect the entire population, but especially the most vulnerable, the disabled.  A peace accord was signed in November 2022 which included disarmament, and the region has been blessed by stability and peace since.

THAF has, again aided by Adu Worku, partnered with 2 groups of ophthalmic surgeons in the region and arranged outreach Eye-camps. The first two camps completed in October, 2023 and nearly 700 cataract surgeries were performed – as well as over 200 trachoma surgeries. 

One of the hundreds of people benefitting from THAF’s most recent Eye-camp was a 6 year old girl, Wezem
When she was only one year old she sustained a traumatic injury to her left eye that resulted in an injured lens (traumatic cataract), she was also near blind in her right eye, but this was not considered repairable.  She had been unable to be outside and play with the other children due to her poor vison. Her father brought her to the Eye-camp hoping there would be help available to her – and there was! Wezem underwent cataract surgery on her left eye, and the very next day she could see again and now walk outside without assistance.

There are so many stories that could be told – miraculous transformations; here is one more:

Nigisti is a 70 year old widow who developed cataracts in both eyes. She became blind in 2019.
Prior to becoming blind she earned a living as a merchant selling different goods.
After several falls (in one she lost 3 of her upper teeth) she realized she could no longer walk outside her house without assistance. She became totally dependent on the charity of neighbors and family to sustain her life. Until the offer of the THAF-supported free Cataract surgery clinic, she had no hope of ever being able to see again or support herself. She underwent surgery, and the very next day she could see – a miracle that completely transformed her life. Now Nigisti can again take care of her own needs, and her dignity is restored as she can contribute and no longer be a burden to her family and friends.

Our current cost is only US $60 for each eye surgery. This includes the surgeon’s fee, paying for the other associated staff, the lens, the anesthetic, the eye-drops and sterilization of the instruments. Can you think of a better way to spend $60?

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