Rome (Fides Service) - 100 eye operations in 10 days, restoring the sight 100 Africans, men women and children, blinded by untreated cataracts. This was the result of the first humanitarian mission of ‘Restore Light’ project undertaken by the AFMAL Association with the St John of God brothers for Distant Sick Persons, in February in Gao in Mali, in sub-Saharan Africa to fight blindness caused by untreated diseases.
Led by the national AFMAL vice president Brother Benedetto Possemato, the team of volunteers comprising two oculists, two nurses, a logistic specialist of the St John of God Hospitals and an oculist of the Association for Research for Cooperation in Developing Countries (ARC), left Italy equipped with diagnostic and surgical instruments, sight aids and sterile sets for the regional hospital in Gao.
The African patients, including a 6 month old baby and an 8 year old girl both with congenital cataracts were operated as outpatients followed up with post-operation examinations and treatment. At the same time the team trained local medical and paramedical staff to remove cataracts and give post-operation treatment and therapy.
“Mali people are wonderful -says Brother Benedetto-. We were deeply moved by the great dignity with which they live in extreme poverty and suffer all manner of sicknesses and disabilities such as blindness. They possess nothing, but they are always ready to smile ”.
In Sub-Saharan Africa blindness is a serious health emergency and social problem. It is a health problem because it affects about 2 million people who have no access to medicine or surgery and it is the result of pathologies in this area of the continent caused by malnutrition, unclean water and particular climatic and biological conditions. It is a social problem because blind people cannot work , they cannot help their village. What is more, to each blind adult an eight year old child is assigned to act as a guide and is denied a normal childhood. Blind people are often looked at with suspicion, the victims of evil spirits and they are rejected and isolated by the rest of the village.
With its project “Restore light” Afmal intends to help blind people retrieve their sight and in this way also their dignity as people who can provide for themselves and to let guide-children return to a normal childhood, as well as to train African doctors and nurses in this sort of surgery and treatment. (AP) (11/3/2004 Agenzia Fides; Righe:38; Parole: 466)