The Eye Doctor Comes…

Everywhere I go I get told by the old people that I’m to help them to see again.  Miracle worker I am not, but practical solution finder:  sometimes.  So, after a lot of emails, via Northern Ireland, America and some other places I got in touch with technico Sergio, my new best friend eye doctor.

After some meetings with Sergio we arranged that an ophthalmic technician would visit Guludo on 27/28 October to survey the problems in the area and see what we could do.

As I swanned off to Ethiopia on holiday I left my trusty staff to organise everything.  Have faith!

Technico Francisco travelled back with me from Pemba last Sunday and we arrived at Guludo for his first time at our beautiful beach.

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Technico Francisco checks out the local people with the lodge manager’s head torch: it’s all about improvisation!

Francisco’s normal day workload is about 15-20 people, when I informed him the staff had a list of 350 people to see over 2 days he seemed surprised!  However, he was exceptionally good humoured about it all and saw 123 people on day one and 175 on day two!

The Nema staff had arranged the days spread over the two local health centres and with Amina’s tireless organising of the queueing system and leaving Assane to corral people and explain things and Abudu the new driver to fetch people and take people home again I spent a nice few days talking to the village chiefs and local leadership and having fun with the kids. And of course, as always, dispensing money as and where necessary!

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Amina and the chefe de aldeia of Manica marshall the appointments from lists made by the Nema staff.

Sadly many of the problems here stem from bad diets and many of the remedies are temporary: giving people 10 or 20 days’ worth of vitamin pills will not solve the long term underlying issues of malnutrition which has caused impaired vision and many other maladies. However, with our ongoing agricultural projects and more information maybe we can slowly change attitudes and lifestyles.
There are lots of ailments here and over the next few months we will be trying to help those with bilateral cataracts access an operation and those who need glasses access the services they need to measure their needs. As always it’s slow going but we now have a plan, contacts and people we know who can help so we will get there, eventually.
Not everyone came; there were some people who had put their names on the list, who, when the car came to pick them up, let fear override need. We hope that proving that it is a good thing will make more people come next time.

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Assane explains the process to the first set of patients to arrive. For most this is the first time their eyes have ever been tested.

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The next generation will be better off for interventions now, though it’s difficult for them to really get that now, they are just cute for these years!

These services are provided by the government but only in Pemba, that’s an expensive, long way for most people here, especially when they are old and scared of the journey and the hospital and the whole experience is too much for them to imagine. So instead of taking them to the hospital we brought the hospital to the people. Much more effective for reaching the number of people we wanted to reach. Now we have introduced people to the services available we are hoping to increase confidence in accessing services. This will be a slow process and will not come fully into effect for this generation, but, as always, baby steps are most likely to be permanent.
For a low cost intervention that reached a high number of people we would consider this to be effective. Including the ridiculously priced petrol for transporting everyone around (in Angola petrol prices are fixed at US$0.3 per litre so here budgeting involves much more allocation to a petrol budget, it’s very sad to have to spend this much money on petrol but absolutely vital to our ability to do our job) we spent a lowly $400 on this initial stage of this project, to reach 300 people. Compared to some of the larger charities $400 is a drop in the ocean, but we use our money carefully and with great consideration to the primary, secondary and tertiary effects and beyond of what we are doing. To us here at Nema, that’s how we get value for money and effective, long lasting projects to help the community.

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