Islamic Relief helps restore vision with cataract project

More than 150 patients – aged between 60 and 80 years – were discharged from the Leratong Hospital in Johannesburg on Monday after undergoing cataract at the weekend. The project, jointly coordinated by Islamic Relief South Africa (IRSA) and the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa (IMASA), was sponsored by mobile community platform, Palringo.

A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye, which impedes the passage of light. Most cataracts are related to ageing, although occasionally children may be born with the condition. Cataracts may also develop after an injury, inflammation or disease. The World Health Organisations attributes diabetes, prolonged exposure to sunlight, tobacco use and alcohol as potential causes.

More than six million people are affected by cataract blindness in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are currently 217,000 patients awaiting cataract surgery in South Africa, of which 35,000 cases are from the Gauteng province. 

According to IRSA’s project coordinator, Taariq Mathiba, the cataract surgery project will alleviate the pressure on government-run hospitals that have a waiting list of more than 6,000 patients.

“Although state hospital to provide this service, they are overbooked. Studies show that individuals often wait longer than three years to be treated. As part of this project, we prioritised patients who live well below the poverty line, who do not have access to primary health services and who cannot afford to pay the high costs for cataract surgery which ranges between R9,000 and R25,000.”

“Cataracts are prevalent in people aged 50 and older. Most of our doctors are in private practice but they volunteer their time and services on the weekend. We cover approximately 60 patients between Saturday and Sunday,” IMASA’s Nadeem Ahmed added.

“We are a non-governmental organisation of medical practitioners and we are open to partnering with other like-minded individuals or organisations. We were honoured when Islamic Relief approached us with the interest to fund the procedures.”

For part-time farm worker Charles Dirolelo [aged 54] the procedure will change his life for the better. “This surgery means the world to me. I do not have money to go to a private hospital and I have already been turned away on two different occasions. I will be able to see much better and this will help me when I am working with the animals on the farm.”

Ahmed thanked Islamic Relief for the contribution and hoped to build on the partnership so that together the two organisations could serve more people.

For more information on Islamic Relief’s development programmes in South Africa, visit www.islamic-relief.org.za/