CBM carries out ten millionth cataract operation

Joyce Kaaya - Photo:CBM/argum/Einberger

Joyce Kaaya - Photo:CBM/argum/Einberger

CBM, the  Christian overseas disability charity, has notched up a milestone in the battle against blindness.  On 28 October 2010 at 10am it carried out its ten millionth cataract operation at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, in Moshi, Tanzania.

The operation was carried out by Dr Heiko Phillipin.  His patient was Joyce Kaaya, who works as a farmer in a poor rural part of Tanzania.  She owns cows and chickens and also sells bananas. Before the operation she was blind in both eyes due to cataract.

“I thank God and CBM. This is a dream come true for me,” said Joyce Kaaya, a mother of two from Arumeru, between Moshi and Arusha.

CBM’s first ever cataract operation was carried out in 1966 in Afghanistan. Last year CBM facilitated 675,000 cataract operations – one every minute. CBM supports 200 eye hospitals and eye departments worldwide.

Globally 17 million people worldwide are blind due to cataracts, a clouding of the lens inside the eye.

Two thirds of blind people worldwide are women. A child goes blind every minute whilst every five seconds an adult goes needlessly blind.

It costs just £20 to restore someone’s sight through cataract surgery.

4% of the global population is blind or vision impaired, which is four times the population of the UK. Yet 80% of blindness is readily treatable and/or preventable.

The large eye clinic of KCMC (Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre) at the foot of Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania has contributed to CBM’s ten millionth cataract milestone.  Built in 1971, the eye department was a pioneer in many aspects of eye work in Africa.  The first cataract surgeons in Tanzania were trained here and today it is still only one of two training hospitals for ophthalmologists in all of Tanzania.

Despite the population increasing around the world there are fewer people going blind. “We are starting to win the battle to eliminate avoidable blindness, but it will be a long war and there is still lots to be done,” says Dr Bill McAllister, CEO CBM UK.

CBM has been officially recognized by the World Health Organisation (WH0) as an organisation specializing in preventing and curing blindness.

In 2000 it was projected that without effective, major intervention, the number of blind people worldwide would increase to 76 million by 2020 (Source: VISION 2020).  Today, due to CBM and other NGOs, the total figure for the number of blind people worldwide is around 45 million. Today 15 million fewer people are blind than was projected ten years ago.

Scientifically, the causes of cataracts are not yet all clear. Age-related cataract – caused by metabolic disease and ageing of the tissue – is responsible for almost half of world blindness.  Cataracts can be cured through a simple 10-minute operation in which the lens is removed and replaced by a plastic one.  It is the most commonly performed operation worldwide.

CBM is a founder member of VISION 2020 - the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness.
The yearly economic cost of blindness is estimated at 25 billion US dollars. Almost 90% of blind people live in developing countries.

CBM is fighting the global war against blindness in four ways:

•        Prevention of the causes of blindness
•        Surgical and medical treatment
•        Training of local staff at all levels
•        Rehabilitation

CBM’s holistic approach ensures that its intervention impacts on the individual and the local community for the longer-term.

For more information visit: www.cbmuk.org.uk or www.vision2020.org

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