I See the White Buildings
“I can see all the white buildings, these beautiful white buildings that I had lost hope of ever seeing again,” exclaimed Mademba Guèye, a 70-year-old resident from Gueye Kabe, a small village in eastern Senegal.
Dressed in a grey caftan, Mademba had just undergone a cataract operation, one of 200 patients at a mobile surgical unit organised by Amref Health Africa and the Senegalese Ministry of Health. In the nearby regions of Tambacounda, Ziguinchor, Matam, Sédhiou, Kolda and Thies, the visiting doctors also performed reconstructive surgeries, such as cleft lip and palate repair, as well as vesicovaginal fistulas. Fistulas are caused by obstructed labours that tear the delicate tissue of the bladder and colon, resulting in leakage of urine or faeces, or both, often causing women to be cast out from their families and communities due to the resultant smell.
These surgeries are life-altering.
“I rediscovered my sight! For several months, I had lost all hope of one day reopening my eyes, but you did it!” repeated Mademba.
Mademba had cataracts in both eyes for several years, which greatly impaired his vision. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, he could not afford to have them repaired. It was his good fortune when the Amref Health Africa and Ministry of Health surgical camp set up near his community. At a much reduced rate, he was able to fully regain his sight after the operation.
Mademba could not contain his pleasure, he was overwhelmed with the results and his new life. “This intervention was too costly for me to pay, but Amref Health Africa got it done,” he said emotionally. “God bless you.”
Just like Mademba, many people in this area have regained their sight and are now able to work again following surgical intervention by Amref Health Africa.
Mobile surgical camps date back to the days in 1957 when Amref Health Africa was founded as the Flying Doctors of East Africa to bring medical care to remote areas of Africa. The three founders would fly to outlying regions and set up ‘under the wing’ primary care and surgical operations to help whatever medical cases they encountered on the ground. Since then, technology has improved greatly and Amref Health Africa’s clinical outreach programme is able to plan its visits around patient needs and the demands of rural hospitals. They also use this opportunity to teach local surgeons and doctors, along with other health care workers, so they are able to upgrade their skills and eventually perform the surgeries themselves.