Saturday, 21 November 2015

Maban Cataract Camp, South Sudan

By John Cropsey

These past 6 days, I have witnessed pure beauty.  The closest thing I can compare it to is the feeding of the 5,000, except we were given an impossible sea of blind people to treat.  The eye team of Kenyans (from Tenwek Hospital), Burundians (from Kibuye Hospital) and South Sudanese (Samaritan's Purse) cared for over 1,500 patients in Maban, Upper Nile State, South Sudan, and performed 512 cataract surgeries on some of the world’s most difficult cataracts (lots of band keratopathy and pseudo-exfoliation with zonular instability and tiny pupils - I call it Sudanese eye).  This region has no access to eye care.  The nearest ophthalmologist in Juba is a three-week journey by 4x4.  Thankfully we could be flown in by MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship).


Maban is currently home to a massive refugee population fleeing active conflicts in South Sudan and Sudan just to the north.  The majority of the surgeries were for patients who were blind in both eyes and teetering on death’s doorstep.  Imagine being a blind refugee in a place where food and water are scarce, violence is endemic and the plagues of the earth freely reek havoc in congested, makeshift camps (HIV, TB, leprosy, dysentery, trachoma.…) with over 100,000 refugees struggling to survive in a land not their own.  In fact, several blind patients sustained significant injuries just trying to get to us.

Caring for that many patients in such a short period takes a coordinated, team effort which was spearheaded by Samaritan’s Purse and the Maban County Hospital.  The UNHCR (United Nations High Council for Refugees) provided three commercial buses for transporting patients by the 100’s each day from four large refugee camps and the "host" community.  MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders), the Red Cross and others also helped publicize and aid patients to the camp.

Here is how each day would start.  Examine the 80 - 90 post-op patients from the day before.  Organize the queue of 80-90 patients to be operated on that day who had already been previously screened.  Begin the surgeries while other clinicians would screen 200 - 300 new patients being bussed in by the UNHCR each day.  Here's a video of what that looks like.

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