Thousands of poverty-stricken Zimbabweans with eye problems are visiting a free eye camp at Sekuru Kaguvi Eye Hospital at Harare’s Parirenyatwa Hospital.
The oversubscribed eye camp is sponsored by the International Islamic Relief Organisation of Saudi Arabia and runs until tomorrow.
Zimbabweans coming from as far as Guruve, Mt. Darwin, Mudzi and the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, told Studio 7 it was sad that the majority of them were getting blind from conditions that were treatable.
Thirty-four year old Million Zeti, who lost his eyesight two years ago and survives on carpentry, said he was no longer able to fend for his family due to eye problems.
Zeti said he had resigned to fate until all this changed on Tuesday when he had an eye cataract operation.
“I can now see and have been enabled to do my own jobs so I can look after my family. This cataract operation is very expensive. These people helped us a lot. All of us don't have money but the eye camp has benefited us.”
Another beneficiary, Nathan Madzinga, who stopped going to school because of poor eyesight, is now a very happy person.
“It’s too expensive. It costs something like $600 to make it done. Even the medication after the operation is expensive but they managed to help us.”
Sixty-three-year-old Steve Makotose travelled from Bulawayo, 366 kilometers to undergo a free eye operation.
“I have eye problems and my vision is poor. This is a good programme because most people cannot afford doctors expenses. It is helping poor people. We are benefitting. I urge other people who cannot afford eye care to come and get help.”
Concerned Harare resident, Gloria Bhaudi, also visited the camp for an eye checkup.
“I had come for an operation but they told me I do not have cataracts but I benefited because now I know that I do not have cataracts.”
Yussuf Binali, supervisor for the International Islamic Relief Organisation of Saudi Arabia’s eye camp, said they were overwhelmed by the large number of people seeking help.
“We have seen the need for the eye cataract in Zimbabwe. We are going to have some other outreach programmes outside Harare. This programme was centralised in Harare trying to see how people respond. We have seen that the need is great. Given from the registrations more than 4,000 have come trying to register and some have been here since 4am but we are taking at least 100 so that the doctors can manage.”
Cataract surgery is a procedure to remove eye lens and in most cases replace it with artificial lens. In Zimbabwe, eye surgery costs between US$800 to US$1,500 at private hospitals.
At public hospitals it costs between $300 to $600 but due to deteriorating social services, many Zimbabweans have had to live with cataract-induced blindness.