Sight Restored to 1570 Patients in War-Torn Tigray
HCP is the first and only eye care NGO to enter the Tigray region since war broke out two years ago. After much-needed equipment repairs and restocking medical supplies, we conducted an enhanced outreach at Quiha General Hospital to tend to the vision impaired who lacked access to eye care for so long.
Before November 2020, Tigray was known as the “cradle of Ethiopian civilization.” The region’s mountainous terrain formed a natural defense against invaders, allowing indigenous culture to flourish in the form of musical arts, rock-hewn churches, and an advanced agricultural system as far back as 3000 BC.
Today, the region has made headlines around the world because of the civil war that erupted there over two years ago. Since then, the Tigray War has caused immeasurable harm to the Ethiopian people. It has resulted in more deaths than any other contemporary conflict, with countless people displaced.
Civilian institutions such as hospitals, schools, and businesses were looted and razed. Healthcare – including eye care – services effectively ceased as infrastructure was destroyed and equipment fell into disrepair. The very same terrain that protected Tigray for so long, made access to lifesaving resources even more difficult.
With the announcement of peaceful negotiations last fall, Ethiopia reopened to aid organizations. To date, HCP is the first and only eye care NGO that has traveled to the Tigray region. Read on for a full report of our latest outreach.
From the Field: Quiha General Hospital Outreach
As soon as the conflict eased last fall, HCP’s Biomedical Engineer – Abreham Haddis – traveled to Tigray in order to assess the status of eye care infrastructure, as well as gauge the population’s most pressing needs.
Fortunately, Quiha General Hospital‘s eye care equipment was found in relatively good condition and HCP worked with the International Red Cross (ICRC) to transport medical supplies to the region. After a few repairs and long overdue maintenance, HCP set out to plan an enhanced outreach in Tigray for the first time in years.
Sight Restored to 1570 Patients
From March 1-8, 2023, Dr. Tilahun Kiros and Dr. Yonas Mituku led a surgical outreach at Quiha General Hospital. In one week, local surgeons restored sight to 1,318 cataract patients and 252 trichiasis patients.
But the work doesn’t stop there.
HCP continues to work with local eye care units and staff to train Tigray’s workforce in cutting-edge eye care. Unlike many organizations that fly in to provide care and fly out the next day (taking talent and expertise with them), we develop partnerships with local eye care providers and offer the training, resources, and equipment to empower communities to build their resilient eye care infrastructure.
Meet Haftom Birhanu
Haftom was only one year old when his parents noticed he wasn’t responding normally to visual stimuli. Though he could only crawl, it was clear that he had trouble distinguishing objects around him. So he mostly sat still.
Though his parents first praised Haftom as a quiet, well-behaved baby, they soon realized something was wrong. Haftom’s father, Ato Brhanu, walked with his son strapped to his back for three days to visit traditional healers and collect holy water. But nothing seemed to help.
Two years later, once the Tigray conflict quieted, staff from Quiha General Hospital visited their village. Doctors screened Haftom and scheduled a hospital visit so they could treat his bilaterally blinding cataract.
A few weeks later, Haftom arrived at Quiha, and Ethiopian ophthalmologist Dr. Yonas Mitiku performed cataract surgeries that restored the boy’s vision. Ato Birhanu was overjoyed that his son could finally see clearly. He beamed as his son toddled through the crowds gathered at HCP’s outreach.
Before returning home, where Haftom would be able to see his mother for the first time in years, Ato Birhanu expressed his gratitude to the medical team and HCP for giving his son not just sight, but the hope for a better life.
Your support helps us provide sight-restoring care, on-the-ground training, and essential medical supplies to those who need it most. Donate today to give children like Haftom, in Tigray and around the world, the gift of sight.