A U.S.-based nonprofit is helping many blind South Sudanese see again by hiring a local doctor to perform surgeries on hundreds of patients in the Jonglei State capital Bor.
Sixty-year-old Mary Ayak Thie lost her vision about three years ago. Ayak said after the doctor removed cataracts from her eyes, her vision returned.
“Before the operation, everything was dark and I could not see, but now it is better. I can see my food; I can go the bathroom, by myself. So I thank the doctor who has helped me see again,” she told VOA’s “South Sudan in Focus.”
Dr. Santino Malang was hired by Partners in Compassionate Care to perform the operations in Bor this week.“We have screened over 6,000 patients … and we have done over 172 cataracts as we speak,” Malang told VOA. “I feel good because somebody was blind, and can see after the operation, and is able to walk again alone by themselves, it makes both the patients and me happy. ”
Patient Mach Athem, 50, said he, too, can see again after successful surgery by Malang.
“If God has brought the doctor to come and help us, all someone like me can say is ‘thank you.’ I was in a difficult condition, depending on someone else for everything,” Athem told “South Sudan in Focus.”
Athem, Ayak and other patients say they are learning to be self-reliant now that they can see again.
Unfortunately, Malang says, not all patients can have their sight restored.
“People with glaucoma, people with corneal scaring, we are not able to restore their sight. So what happens? We just tell them we can’t do it and we counsel them. So it is hard for them and we feel bad, but there is nothing more we can do,” Malang told VOA.
Deng Ajak Jongkuch, executive director for Partners in Compassionate Care, said the eye operations began last week and will continue until April 2. He said there was a real need for this type of surgery in Bor.
“We do this work because of the vulnerability of elderly people. They don’t have money to go to Juba, Kenya or Uganda for care. And cataract surgery is a simple 15-minute operation, but untreated, a cataract can destroy somebody’s life. Most patients must have someone to help them, guide them to showers, to the bathroom, to bed and to food. But after the operation, they become independent and that’s very rewarding,” Jongkuch told VOA.
Each surgery costs about $100, far cheaper than just about anywhere else in the world for the same operation. Partners will spend about $50,000 to perform operations in Bor but will extend the surgeries to other areas of Jonglei if the nonprofit receives more donations, Jongkuch said.
“The need for cataract surgeries is huge. We will never finish everybody. I wish we could help the eye center in Bor here. We have a cataracts surgeon; Abraham Tong is in Bor here but he is not doing surgeries because there is no support,” Jongkuch told South Sudan in Focus.
He said they hope to go to Pibor, Ayod and Akobo, as well as the other side of the Nile River.
In November, Partners in Compassionate Care successfully operated on more than 150 patients suffering from either cataracts or the eye disease trachoma. Ajak said he has gone back to the U.S. to ask donors for more money. He hopes the South Sudanese-American community will help.
The nonprofit was formed in 2004 in the Midwestern state of Michigan by American David Bowman for the purpose of providing humanitarian health care to South Sudan. (VOA)
In the minutes before a solar eclipse plunged Chile into darkness, a loudspeaker projected a deep baritone to a group of blind men and women who had traveled to the Atacama desert to “hear” what hundreds of thousands of others had come to see.
Then, a moment of silence until the sunlight, and the sound, returned. Tourists from around the globe converged on the northern Chilean desert on Tuesday to witness the total eclipse under the world’s clearest skies.
University of Valparaiso
The musical experience, orchestrated by Chile’s University of Valparaiso, was designed to help blind people, or those with some level of visual impairment, experience the phenomenon through a change in the frequency of sounds.
“It was exciting, incredible, a magical experience,” said Octavio Oyarzún, 41, one of the thousands of people who came to the small town of Cachiyuyo, about 600 km (373 miles) north of Santiago. A professor of music and blind from birth, Oyarzún traveled from the nearby port of Caldera to “listen” to the eclipse, the first in the region since 1592, according to Chilean astronomers.
“It’s like a gift from science to be able to live this sensitive experience that we could not otherwise experience,” added Oyarzún, who is married to a blind woman with whom he has two children who can see. “I feel like a bridge to the unknown, something that makes it possible to translate into the world of sounds what would be a mystery to us,” he added.
The sound-making device, called Lightsound, was developed by Puerto Rican astrophysicist Wanda Díaz Merced. It “translates” a greater amount of light into high-pitched sounds and greater darkness into bass sounds, Chilean astronomer Catalina Arcos told Reuters.
Arcos, a professor at the Institute of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Valparaíso, helped to organize the observation site in Cachiyuyo, a town of less than 300.
“This allows people who can’t see the eclipse to hear it,” said the scientist. “As astronomers, this excites us.” Denisse Reyes, 34, said the experience surprised her. “I can perceive lights, I can recognize day and night, but this amazed me. I felt like I was entering the mysterious world of the planets and the solar system,” she said. (VOA)