December 8, 2018 will likely remain eked in the memory of Mzee Eseri Nantume. It is the day she had been waiting for nearly a month since she was tipped of an opportunity at Mulago hospital in which those with cataracts would have them removed and help them recover their lost sight – free of charge.
When a team of some 18 Kuwaitis including 4 eye specialists was finally ushered into the waiting room of the Uganda Cancer Institute, Mzee Nantume and nearly 100 people with whom she was waiting, could not hide their joy. The moment had come to finally get rid of the damn thing from her left eye, that had stolen her sight, as she reflected on the day in an interview two days after the operation.
At 70 years old and walking barefooted, the old poor lady from Masaka was the first person to undergo surgery in order to remove the cataract she had lived with for many years.
The anxiety among patients, most of them elderly people, was equally matched by a high level of enthusiasm among the Kuwaiti doctors who visibly expressed eagerness to embark on the procedures.
The visiting team skipped tea that had been prepared for them by the International Islamic Charitable Organisation (IICO) Uganda office, in order to embark on the job in earnest.
Perhaps the enthusiasm had been triggered by the huge task that lay ahead of them, following an earlier briefing by Mulago hospital doctors that some 1000 patients had been screened and chosen from more than 3000 that had applied to benefit from the medical camp.
Clearly evident as well was the sense of compassion among the medics, who insisted that the elderly should be brought in first.
The eye camp that was organised by IICO and sponsored by Kuwait’s Boubyan bank was a God sent opportunity for the thousand patients that were to receive it.
Not only did so many get the surgical operation done free of charge, they were accommodated in a hostel for a few days in order to allow the doctors monitor them before they could be sent back to their homes.
A representative of the Kuwait Delegation (left) presents a gift to the Commissioner of Curative services Dr. Amony Jackson
It also emerged from remarks by Dr. Jackson Amony, the Commissioner Curative Services in the Ministry of Health, that hundreds of thousands of Ugandans are suffering from treatable eye problems due to an acute shortage of eye specialists in the country.
He revealed, for example, that the few eye specialists the country has are based at Mulago national referral hospital, and they are asked to make tours to regional referral hospitals to carry out surgeries on patients there.
Again, the absence of facilities at the regional health facilities, coupled with high levels of poverty among patients, means that many of the people in the villages people have to endure the treatable eye defects, perhaps until death.
So when opportunity knocked at the doors of the 1000 patients, the excitement was unmistakable.
200,000 US dollars may have been spent on organizing the eye clinic, courtesy of Boubyan bank of Kuwait, according to Abdul Aziz Muhammad, the IICO country director, but the degree of joy, relief among the patients is clearly invaluable. And for those who believe in God’s rewards, those who contributed towards making the camp a reality, have something to count from their charitable deed, when they meet their creator.