Planned outreaches will help people in Eritrea’s capital city of Asmara and its surrounding areas.

The need here is great. According to the Fred Hollows Foundation, most recent evidence suggests that the rates of blindness in Eritrea may be among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. Cataracts are responsible for more than half (55%) of blindness in Eritrea.

Since 2019, HCP has performed more than 2,400 cataract surgeries in Eritrea. This February, the HCP team with in-country partner Berhan Aini Hospital restored sight to nearly 600 more. Surgeons performed 572 cataract surgeries as well as treating two patients for corneal trauma and one patient for a corneal ulcer.

In addition, doctors performed ten successful cornea transplants. This doubles the previous total number of cornea surgeries completed in the country. HCP performed the first-ever cornea transplant during a fall 2023 outreach.

Ahmed and his sister after surgery.

For Ahmed Ibrahim, one of the cornea recipients, he calls the surgery life-changing. Accompanied by his sister to the outreach, Ahmed knew the treatment would be too costly to pursue without HCP. “I was coming back and forth to the hospital to check on my eye,” he says but understood that doctors may be unable to treat it without HCP support. Hospital staff prioritized Ahmed, adding him to the top of their list.

Those waiting for cornea transplants like Ahmed face multiple challenges in countries like Eritrea: paying the cost for medical care and finding suitable cornea tissue needed for surgery. Both can be deal-breakers for receiving much-needed care. Ahmed received a cornea brought from the US for his surgery.

Ophthalmic nurse Niyat Desale agrees, “Patients keep on waiting on hold until the campaign comes. They do it now and they get clear vision. The operations get good results here.”

HCP Co-founder Dr. Geoff Tabin with doctors and residents at Berhan Aini Hospital, Asmara, Eritrea.

In addition to care, outreaches allow for HCP to transfer skills to local doctors to build local capacity. In Eritrea, HCP Co-Founder Dr. Geoff Tabin lectured to medical staff on surgical techniques and shared medical cases to increase local staff’s knowledge of current best practices in the field of ophthalmology. His classroom lectures were supplemented with hands-on training. Instruction spanned six days.

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