Cataract blindness in sub-Saharan Africa
Volunteers deliver eye care that we take for granted in the West
- By: Jagdeep Singh Gandhi
As a volunteer eye surgeon from the United Kingdom I have worked in countries such as Zambia, Kenya, and Namibia. A trip to Ghana in west Africa by our team of three people invoked themes that apply to the whole continent. At Accra airport we discovered people drinking water out of small plastic bags. The driver, tasked with ferrying us to Tamale in the north, quietly observed our curiosity. With a poetic flourish he remarked that clean water was like a rare jewel. We were informed that the death rate from Guinea worm infection, an indicator of poor water supply, had not fallen over the past three decades.
We were here to treat cataracts. Half of the blindness in sub-Saharan Africa today is attributable to cataract formation.1 This is a disorder in which the crystalline lens of the eye develops cloudiness. It occurs in almost everyone, with patients in developed