NGO’s Free Eye Care Treatment Exposes Magnitude of The Problem in Borno 

By: Zainab Yetunde Adam 

More than 4000 patients with different forms of visual impairment have recently received free medical treatments in Maiduguri, Borno state capital. 

The free treatment, provided by a consortium of non-governmental organizations has however bared the magnitude of visual challenges confronting many residents of the conflict-wrecked city with patients turning out in large numbers that exceeded the target of the service providers. 

The outreach revealed how people whose visual impairments could have been cured via simple procedures, end up going blind because they have no means or access to medical care. 

The free eyecare outreach was provided by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in collaboration with Al-Basar International Foundation. Officials said the intervention was designed to provide general eye care to 4000 patients and 600 cataract surgery.

Days of the outreach were characterized by an endless waiting queue of help-seeking patients with visual challenges at an eye hospital in Maiduguri.

One of the patients, Mohammed Mohammed Umar, who reached out to ThT with a complaint, said he had been frequenting the Eye hospital located along Damboa road Maiduguri for about 10 days to seek treatment but to no avail.

Visually impaired patients waiting for free services outside Maiduguri Eye Hospital. Photo credit: Zainab Adams

Many other patients who came from different locations of Borno state were unable to quickly access the free eyecare services and had to keep loitering around the venue of the outreach program till they were attended. Many were not lucky.

“I spent the whole day here on my first and second day last week here,” he said.

A 22-year-old patient,  Mohammed  Umar, who was at the Eye Hospital at 8 am on that day said his unattended eye sickness has resulted in a cataract.

“I cannot sleep at night because of the pain,” he lamented.

At about the afternoon of the day that ThT visited the hospital for a situation report, our reporter spotted Khadija Bukar, another patient seated on the floor – stranded. 

“I have been here since 5 AM. My sights are blank, I cannot see anything for almost a year now. I do not have a treatment hand card but I will continue waiting so long I will get treated freely,” Khadija explained.

Two staff of the hospital confirmed that the hospital is still operating its normal paid service whilst the Free Eye outreach sponsored by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre in collaboration with Al Basar International Foundation is ongoing. 

“The outreach started on 8th December 2022 and is expected to end on the 16th”, the official said.

“The hospital doors are closed at intervals by security agencies manning the environment to o control the crowd. We didn’t stop any health operations.”

An official of Al Basar International Foundation who is the Operating Theatre In-Charge of the program, Dr. Abdullahi Baba Lawan said that they have carried out eye screening for about 4,000 patients, given drugs and glasses, and will only undergo 600 cataract surgery.

“The people are complying with the treatment which shows people are in need,” Dr. Lawan affirmed.

The Ophthalmologist identified the problem of financial crisis among patients but advised patients to undergo routine check-ups instead of adopting self-medication.

The Residents are still appealing for more such treatments especially the treatment of Cataractact beyond the target of 600.

Edited by Abdulkareem Haruna

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