Strides made to save sight

2020-01-29 06:00
Dr Bayanda Mbambisa

Dr Bayanda Mbambisa

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While funding teeters, 240 000 South Africans are blind due to untreated cataracts.

The Ophthalmological Society of South Africa (Ossa), a body that focuses on assisting to avoid blindness in South Africa through partnerships, laments the growing number of untrea­ted cases.

According to Dr Bayanda Mbambisa, chairperson of Right to Sight, dwindling funding decreases the number of cataract surgeries and causes a setback in achieving the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Vision 2020 campaign, which aims to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020.

In line with supporting this programme, Ossa initiated Eyecare 2000, known as the Second Sight Project. It is a flagship initiative that falls under the Right to Sight Trust, which manages and raises funds for Eye­care 2000.

Mbambisa said significant strides have been made.

Achievements include raising over R50 million towards avoi­dable blindness in the past three years, assisting 2 061 South Africans.

“In 2019 alone we managed to help 629 people regain their sight. In 2016 the first major sponsorship was secured, and 703 pro-bono surgeries were performed. However, legislation and other prohibiting factors saw this number drop significantly in 2017.”

Mbambisa said since inception the aim had been to assist the government in achieving its goal of eradicating cataract blindness in South Africa by 2005.

“However, post-2005 funding began to dwindle as the nation placed higher priorities on other medical conditions.”

According to Mbambisa, five medical devices companies and three financial donors partnered with the project in 2019, which saw 85 ophthalmologists performing monthly surgeries and an average of 110 doctors supporting the project in Eye Care Awareness Week.

“Based on a conservative estimate that one cataract sufferer impacts the lives of six people, over 12 300 South Africans have benefited indirectly through the project in the past few years,” she said.

“Every donation of R5 250 restores the sight and dignity of one patient, which in turn filters down to a better quality of life for family members and friends who have been caring for the blind or partially sighted indi­vidual.”

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