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A vision for Africa’s poor

Elizabeth Glatz has just returned from Africa on a trip she describes as “the experience of a lifetime.”image-tools (18)

The CERA orthoptist joined a team of five medical professionals traveling to a remote Ethiopian village where they provided free operations for people with eye disease.

“The town we visited, Mizan Teferi, is very isolated, the closest eye care facility being more than 200km away via a dirt road,” Elizabeth said.

“The conditions the people live in – harsh sunlight, poor hygiene and the absence of accessible medical care – contribute to the high rate of eye health issues in this community,” she said.

Elizabeth and the team were representing Eyes for Africa, a project that aims to restore sight to impoverished Ethiopians.

“Cataract was the most common condition we saw but we also treated bacterial infections like trachoma.”

Elizabeth says one of her fondest memories is of a woman who had been blind for many years and was completely reliant on her family for her care.

“This patient had advanced cataracts in both eyes – something rarely seen in Australia because they’re so easily treated,” Elizabeth said.

“After the surgery to remove her cataracts, we took off her bandages and the look on her face was priceless.”

“With a huge smile she raised her hands up to the sky and thanked God. It was the first time she’d seen anything in years.”

“After being led in totally blind by a family member, she was able to walk out unassisted. It was amazing.”

According to Elizabeth, it’s common for people in poor, remote communities to go blind from conditions which are easy and inexpensive to treat in Australia.

“Many people will never have access to eye care so they often go blind at a relatively young age and die blind. It’s tragic. “

“But having the opportunity to help this community and seeing people’s sight restored was amazing. I cried with happiness many times.”

Eyes for Africa is a cataract project for people living in poverty in rural Ethiopia. Photo by Ellen Smith.