AMS is proud to be associated with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health and the Al-Imdaad Foundation. It has been more than two years in planning and preparation, but finally it has arrived. A three-month long cataract surgery programme brought about by a partnership between the Al-Imdaad Foundation, the KZN Department of Health, Air Mercy Services and volunteer doctors from Turkish NGO, Alliance of International Doctors (AID). The cataract programme is part of the Al-Imdaad Foundation’s Vision-4-Life eye care initiative which also includes a free eye clinic, which has seen over 2000 patients in two years of operation.
On October 7th, 2019, the volunteer doctors were flown into the cataract programme briefing session at the Ladysmith Provincial Hospital by Air Mercy Personnel.
At the briefing, Al-Imdaad Foundation’s special projects coordinator, Mr Abed Karrim described the build up to the programme saying, “For two and a half years my team and I have been in and out of Pretoria to secure accreditation for the foreign doctors from the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA). We’ve had a lot of cooperation from Health Departments at all levels and finally the team is able to be here today”.
Mr Karrim went on to say that their mission was simple: “We are here to join hands to enable Vision-4-Life, this is the vision of the leadership of the Al-Imdaad Foundation- our Chairman Maulana Chohan and our trustees. They have said to us, go out there, work hand in hand with the Department of Health, work hand in hand for the community.”
Areas have been identified where there are significant backlogs of patients awaiting cataract surgeries. Public eye facilities at hospitals in Northern Natal will be used for the programme and local support staff and nurses will assist the Turkish team.
Dr T Zulu, an official from uThukela District Health described how the volunteer doctors would be greatly appreciated as some districts had significant backlogs due to a lack of personnel. Dr Zulu also said, “completing back-logs is not just about numbers. It is a quality of life issue and a human rights issue. If there is a two thousand backlog you know how you would feel if there’s a cataract and there are no operations until you are blind. So, we are very happy that we finally have these volunteers to assist us.”
The doctors from Alliance of International Doctors (AID) have had extensive experience conducting cataract surgeries in sub- Saharan Africa. The lead ophthalmic surgeon, Dr Mehmet Aslan previously spent eight months in Niger where he completed thousands of surgeries. During his three-month stay in South Africa, Dr Mehmet aims to make a significant impact on the backlogs.
Dr Mehmet said, “We were all excited to join. This project is quite prestigious for us. So, if we can accomplish this, I can assure you that there are many more volunteer doctors willing to come whenever you want. We are ready to perform the surgeries.”
After thanking all role players, Al-Imdaad Foundation CEO Yacoob Vahed also spoke encouraging words saying:
“I would like to thank everyone who made this significant project possible. Even though there has been a lot of negativity around our beautiful country recently, I believe by working together we can make a real difference. For us this is only the beginning, we hope to be able to bring in more volunteer doctors- both locals and from abroad, to help take this project to other parts of the country.”
The Al-Imdaad Foundation’s Vision-4-Life cataract programme will be running in the last quarter of 2019 with surgeries planned in the uThukela, iLembe and uMzinyathi districts of KwaZulu-Natal. For more information about the programme or to support these initiatives please call 0861786243.