Cataract camp

We would like to share with you the following update and patient story from Sight4Bwindi.

A few months ago is when we had the first eye surgeries done in the South western region of Uganda. This is supported by The Lions International a service organisation, working with Bwindi Community Hospital and surgeons from Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital. It has brought a sigh of hope to the many who never thought their lives would be the same again. Florence is one of the many whose sight have been restored and given them another opportunity to live a productive life. 

Florence (80 years old) was able to participate fully in daily life and continue working for as long as possible with the rest of the family to take care of each other and to provide income. But cataracts made her dependent on her relatives, otherwise she was still fit and strong enough to support herself.

Florence is one of the indigenous population (Batwa-pygmy) who lived in the Bwindi Forest before it was turned into a world heritage site for conservation of the mountain gorillas in the year 1991. With her husband and the other Batwa, they were moved out though it was not a planned resettlement and that had a big impact on their needs including health. They had to learn how to live in the communities through farming and other vocational skills, unlike in the past where they lived by collecting food in the forest and hunting.

Before she had the cataracts that blocked her sight, Florence used to work for a non-profit organisation that empowers the Batwa, she was hired to tell stories and teach the younger generation about their culture. She had also learnt weaving and would weave baskets for a supplementary income to meet her home needs. Unfortunately, for the last two years, she had become isolated and lonely. She would not move out of her home because she had advanced cataracts that needed urgent surgeries and this made her completely dependent on her two children. Florence had given birth to 11 children but lost 9 and was remaining with two. 

 “I am growing older and my joints are getting stiff and painful, but my eye that was operated is still fine. I lost my child just the day I had surgery and could not have the next surgery, I am waiting for the next surgical camp and they work on my second eye. Even with this one eye, I can see the distant hills and recognise people and places again.”

Florence is once again weaving full-time and makes colourful baskets. The money she earns is needed to support her grandchildren and to buy school supplies, food and clothing.

And she is not the only one. There are many people living in isolated villages and homes who are unable to work due to cataracts and glaucoma. Their contribution to the family income falls away and instead they become dependent. And only too often it is the grandchildren or daughter in-laws who have to help their grandfather or grandmother and cannot go to school as a result.

This is not what grandparents want for their family and something needs to be done. A simple cataract operation can change everything.

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