Giving back the gift of sight in Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s Daughters of Charity regularly conduct eye screening missions in low-income communities

A religious congregation in Ethiopia, the Daughters of Charity, have been going around to different parts of the country screening members of low-income communities who have lost their sight due to cataracts. The result? Over 20 000 people have had their sight restored.

The Daughters of Charity have given a new lease of life to some Ethiopians who had become ‘legally blind’ because of cataracts.

Children can attend school

It all started more than ten years ago when, according to Sr. Evelyn Puesta, the project began in Dembidolo to free children from the burden of caring for their parents or grandparents who had lost their sight.

Sr. Puesta explains that when there is an elderly blind person in the family it becomes the responsibility of the child to guide him or her around and this prevents the child from going to school, playing or enjoying life as a child. The project started in 2006 with the view to give back sight to 20 000 people by the year 2020. That target was surpassed in 2018.

Collaboration with government

Sr. Puesta explains that the Sisters implement the project in collaboration with government health centres and screen about 300 patients a day. Those with the problem of cataracts are offered free surgery to restore their sight while those who have other problems are given treatment and appropriate eye care.

“We discuss with the local health authorities explaining to them the services we would like to offer to poor communities with eye problems. The health centres announce to the locals that there will be screening taking place so that as many people as possible can access the services that we provide. They also allow us to use (government) health centres for screening purposes.

During these screenings, we meet many people who have lived for years with eye problems that could easily be treated but can become acute if untreated. Those with cataracts are referred for free eye surgery,” said Sr. Puesta.

Once treated of cataracts, the afflicted go back to productive lives

In addition to giving back sight to the ‘blind’, the Daughters of Charity essentially empower communities economically as they are then able to re-join the workforce once in their communities. This project also focuses on prevention of blindness as much as giving back sight.

So far, the Sisters have reached beneficiaries with the gift of sight in West Wollega, Benshangul Gumuz, Illibabur, Bonga, Holeta, Sululta, Gefersa guji and various districts of greater Addis Ababa such as Ferensai Legasion, Gulele, Bella, Legatafo, Kaliti, Lazarist, Asko and Keraniyo.

As part of the Catholic Church’s Ministry of healing, the service is offered to anyone who needs it without any discrimination whatsoever. The project is implemented with the financial support of the Tropical Health Alliance Foundation.

Daughters of Charity in Ethiopia

Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac founded the Daughters of Charity in Paris in the 17th Century. There are now more than sixty Ethiopian Daughters of Charity with ten others who are not Ethiopian. The Congregation’s apostolate falls under three main categories of health, education and social work. The Sisters run primary health care clinics, outreach stations, and have a specialised eye clinic

A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of one’s eye. As people grow older, Cataracts can occur. Most cataracts are age-related but not always. One can get cataracts for several other reasons.

The good news is that surgery usually gets rid of cataracts. If left untreated, cataracts can cause continual loss of vision, eventually leading to legal blindness or even total blindness.