Margaret Nyirabashyitsi, sixty-eight, has been suffering from vision impairment for the past three years. She could not see anything around her clearly and was always in need of someone to help her complete simple chores and move around in her house.
During the World Sight Day national celebration, Nyirabashyitsi had a special reason to smile as her sight was fully restored.
“This is a miracle that I have received today. From the bottom of my heart I thank the Samaritans as well as the government of Rwanda for making this possible. This is good news for my family members because they had lost all hope that I would ever recover my sight,” she said.
Nyirabashyitsi is among hundreds of others who have benefited from free cataract surgeries with the support of eye health partners such as the Fred Hollows Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of health.
Each year on the second Thursday of October, Rwanda joins the rest of the world to celebrate World Sight Day to drive global attention on blindness and vision impairment. This year’s theme was “Make vision count.”
The celebration took place at Masaka Hospital in Kicukiro District where patients joyfully shared testimonies of having fully recovered their sight after undergoing cataract surgeries.
Various eye health partners present at the event urged the public to go for regular eye check-ups from health practitioners in order to maintain healthy eye sight and avoid blindness.
Ahead of the national celebration, the Ministry of Health in partnership with eye health partners conducted a week-long countrywide tour in which 2,520 patients were screened at least 468 patients underwent cataract surgeries.
Madeline Nyirakigwene another patient, from Masaka sector, was grateful that she could resume doing normal daily chores without difficulties in seeing clear images.
“I could look at a person and see two images of the same person. It was as if I could not see the real image of the person. Now that my sight has been restored, I can even read small letters. I am so happy and grateful that I have had my sight restored for free,” Nyirakigwene said.
Dr Innocent Turate, the head of Institute of HIV/AIDS Disease Prevention and Control at RBC, underscored the need of more campaigns so that all Rwandans go for regular eye check-ups to avoid blindness.
The National Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness carried in 2015 showed that 56.5 of bilateral blindness and 33.5 per cent of vision impairment is caused by cataract and yet 83 per cent is avoidable.
Referring to the statistics, Turate urged all health partners that more efforts are needed to fight blindness. He also called onto the public to maintain healthy diets, embrace physical exercise and go for regular eye check-ups.
The Fred Hollows Foundation as the lead partner, the Ministry of Health also partners with Vision for A Nation (VFAN), Christian Blind Mission (CBM) and One sight as members of The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), Rwanda International Institute of Ophthalmology (RIIO), Rwanda Ophthalmology Society (ROS), Kabgayi Eye Unit and the association of Ophthalmic Clinical officers (ROCOCS).
Having restored sight and hope for people with vision impairment in Rwanda, the Fred Hollows Foundation continues to support awareness campaigns and provide treatment.
Eliane Ndererimana, the Senior Program Manager of The Fred Hollows Foundation, said that the foundation through its countrywide support of hospitals equipment, they will continue fostering the prevention of blindness and increase the trainings for medics to ensure professionalism in delivering quality eye care.
The foundation has so far supported district, provincial and referral hospitals with medical equipment of international standards worth over 200,000 US dollars.
“Our journey to partner with the Ministry of Health is still going on. Some of the main challenges that we are facing in the country include few specialized medics but to address this we are training more. Whatever facilitation and support is needed we shall provide to ensure every Rwandan lives a better life,” Ndererimana pledged.