Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Health Reporter
AT least 600 Zimbabweans will benefit from free cataract surgery that will be rolled out soon following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Chinese Government and the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
Cataracts are one of the leading causes of reversible blindness among people above the age of 50. Although they can affect younger people, most cataracts develop slowly and eventually affect vision.
Under the Bright Journey MoU, a Chinese ophthalmologist medical team will be dispatched to Zimbabwe to collaborate with local doctors on the operations, and conduct on-site training and academic exchanges with the local healthcare personnel.
The team will also donate all the equipment, consumables, medicines and other supplies after the surgical camp ends.
Speaking at the signing ceremony at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare yesterday, the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Douglas Mombeshora, said the programme would be a continuation of the country’s collaboration with China in the health sector.
“The Bright Journey is not something new. It started in 2010 and again in 2012. The country has benefitted from the cataract extraction that took place. Now this MoU that has been signed will upscale the cataract extraction camps to be run. We hope this will also benefit our local ophthalmologists who will get more experience and exposure,” he said.
China also donated a batch of medical equipment and consumables worth US$500 000 to support the development of a pulmonary and critical care unit at Parirenyatwa Hospital.
Minister Mombeshora expressed gratitude for the donation, which he said would go a long way to improve healthcare delivery at the hospitals.
“We are grateful for the equipment that has been donated that will go to the respiratory centre being established at Parirenyatwa. This will go a long way towards managing more patients and also training more doctors and specialists, so this is quite a worthy donation,” he added.
Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Zhou Ding said the co-operation between China and Zimbabwe in the health sector went back many years and his country had so far sent 20 teams to the country. These China medical teams totalling 188 doctors have reached more than 70 000 people across the country with free treatment.
“In the past years, the Chinese Government has helped Zimbabwe to build several hospitals including Chinhoyi Hospital and Mahusekwa China-Zimbabwe Friendship Hospital. We have also helped Zimbabwe to train doctors, nurses and other medical personnel.
“Last year we invited around 100 Government officials, nurses, doctors and technicians to China. I am glad that we are going to start a new programme, which is the Bright Journey programme. This is not new. Back in 2010 and 2012 we conducted this programme and benefitted about 800 cataract patients, helping to restore their eyesight,” he said.
Ambassador Zhou said the Chinese Government would put more effort into facilitating more such programmes to benefit the Zimbabwean people.
Government chief ophthalmologist Dr Boniface Macheka said Zimbabwe had a huge burden of blindness caused by cataracts.
“We have done a rapid assessment of avoidable blindness in Zimbabwe and we found out that the most common cause of reversible blindness is cataracts. We did the survey in Manicaland in 2016, Masvingo in 2019, Matabeleland South in 2019 and 2020 we did Midlands.
“For planning purposes, we can make projections to say of those adults with cataracts or poor vision over age 50, the majority of them will have poor vision due to untreated cataracts. In those four provinces, we found that an average of about 65 percent of those who were blind from various causes, were blind due to cataracts. We are looking at up to 70 000 people using the last population census,” he said.
Dr Macheka said the Bright Journey programme would reduce the backlog of cataract surgery and raise awareness of the availability of surgical services even beyond the cataract camp. The country had up to 10 ophthalmologists who would be working with the Chinese team during the programme.
“It will be a small drop in the ocean but it’s a beginning as it will raise awareness among our people to say there is a solution to blindness from cataracts. One of the reasons for people not accessing these services was lack of knowledge and fear, among other reasons,” he said. The Herald