GOGO Yuni Chiringa (73) of Murambinda Growth Point in Buhera had given up any hope that her sight will be restored one day.
She had for many years accepted her cataract-induced blindness on both eyes and with other elderly colleagues, they would comfort themselves saying blindness was part and parcel of old age.
True for them, eye cataract known as tsanga in Shona normally attacks the ageing population, but information had not yet reached them that cataract can be successfully removed and normal sight restored. So finally when the news filtered that there were eye specialists who would be based at the Rusape General Hospital, Gogo Chiringa packed her bags and asked a relative to accompany her, anticipating a long stay during the operation.
She was not alone as 81 elderly people streamed to Rusape General Hospital’s Eye Clinic to have their eye cataracts operated and for them they were presented with a perfect end of year gift as all the operations were successful.
To add icing on the cake, the operations were done for free as the majority could not afford the exorbitant fees demanded by Government, mission and private hospitals.
An elated Gogo Chiringa told The Manica Post that the successful operation which restored her sight was a huge relief to her and her relatives who were now pre-occupied with accompanying her everywhere. She said besides her advanced age, she was fully fit except her blindness.
“Ndirikunzwa kufara, tsanga dzangu dzabviswa. Ndavakuona. (I am so happy that the cataracts have been removed).
It is not easy to live with blindness. You cannot do anything meaningful because you will be limited by lack of sight.
“When I became blind, I just accepted it as I thought its part of old age. I didn’t know that cataracts can be removed. I was operated for free and I feel so good because most of us could not afford to pay. Today I am going back home an elated person,” she said.
The operation was conducted by the Zimbabwe Council for the Blind through its programme, the Mobile Eye Clinic, which got financial and material funding from the Hindu Society Wednesday Prayer Group and Satyalsai, which is also a Hindu group.
Ophthalmogists, Dr Archie Kufa and Dr Boniface Macheka led the team which carried out the operations.
Dr Kufa said one percent of Zimbabwe’s population is living with blindness of which 0,5 percent suffers from eye cataract. He further said eye cataract can be treated and urged those suffering from it to seek early treatment.
He hailed the Hindu Society Wednesday Prayer Group and Satyalsai for providing resources which enabled patients to be treated free of charge.
“One percent of the country’s population is living with blindness of which 0,5 percent are affected by cataracts. A cataract is mainly caused by old age, which is the biggest factor, diabetes, genetic make ups and skin diseases are some of the other causes.
“At the moment it is out of reach for many people to have eye cataract operated. Most private players are charging around $2 000 and at Parirenyatwa its $450 and to many people it is exorbitant.
“As eye specialists, we are advocating for both private and state hospitals to reduce the charges to about $150 to help the poor patients.
“This free exercise we are having is courtesy of the Hindu Society Wednesday Prayer Group and Satyalsai, who funded everything and we hail such noble initiatives which save other people’s lives. If we had more corporates, individuals and religious groups funding these operations we can significantly reduce the number of eye cataract patients.
“All the 81 patients we attended to at Rusape General Hospital, the operations were successful and the turnout is an indication that we have are people who need this service,” he said.