by Benson Agoha
Efforts to give back sight to the visually impaired are bearing fruit, as blindness remains a public health problem in Somalia.
The programm implemented by the AAl-Nur Foundation, was supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), in partnership with the Government of Norway.
In statement, the World Health Organization said more than 5,100 people from the Juba regions were screened for detection of eye diseases, during the `Gift of Sight' campaign conducted in the port city of Kismayo between August 2013 and January 2014.
WHO said the screening phase of the campaign was followed by surgical treatment to restore vision for more than 1500 patients. Another 1,000 people were provided with glasses to correct refractive errors.
The campaign produced many successes including that of a 90 year-old woman said to have regained her sight after "she underwent a small incision cataract surgery and implantation of intra-ocular lenses."
"It is estimated that about 140,000 people in the country are visually impaired, mainly due to cataract, corneal opacity, refractive errors and glaucoma.", WHO said.
However, 80% of these cases are avoidable, preventable or curable through basic eye care and early treatment. The availability of eye care services in Somalia is very limited, and the cost of the basic eye care is unaffordable to most people. Despite being integrated in the essential package for health services, the implementation of the eye health programme in Somalia remains weak.
WHO works in partnership with national partners and the Somali health authorities to build the capacity of health workers in eye care by facilitating training of Somali doctors. Five health care professionals in Kismayo were also trained to diagnose and treat common ophthalmic problems.
"In collaboration with health partners, WHO intervention includes a planned renovation of the maternity wing of the major hospital in Kismayo serving more than half a million people", the statement said.
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