Will

By Dr Will Dean

Sep 30th 2010

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It’s getting hot

Categories: Adult, Blindness, Cataract

The famous ophthalmologist John Sandford-Smith MBE wrote the book on Eye Disease in Hot Climates, and I can see why he chose the title. These last two weeks it has really started getting hot. And dry and windy.

Jacaranda trees are in full bloom, and signify the start of the hot spell of October, before the amazing flame trees blaze across the countryside in November to announce the start of the heavy rains and spectacular electric thunderstorms in December. The regular rains will only begin around Christmas time, but the next few months are among the most incredible in rural Africa. I’ll get some shots of this remarkable change over the next few weeks to show.

We went into a village the other side of Lilongwe on Monday to see a couple of patients that had been to Nkhoma, and others that could come for help. The picture Katrin took was amazing and it really stunned me.

The view is incredible. A vast vista of space with fields and patches of trees, and real African beauty. There is even two slices of fields in the distance that have already been raked in preparation for planting maize. The house is however a simple mud hut, and the grass mat the only piece of furniture for the family. The gentleman on the right is Mr John Round. He had his cataracts operated by the Nkhoma team last month, and was very happy.

Mr John Round's stunning view

What stuck me is poverty. It’s been nearly 3 years that I have been living in Malawi, and my house is on the edge of Nkhoma Mission village with lots of mud huts around the valley. We have had the chance to travel and see the Lake of course, as well as Zomba and the great metropolis of Blantyre. But this comfort of my house with electricity only cutting out two to three nights a week, the tarred road to Lilongwe and the restaurants and fairly super markets there; and many of the comforts I see here hide the economic reality of the majority of the country; of people like Mr John Round.

We sometimes ask whether it is possible to ask people here to pay a little towards their cataract operations, or other treatment. And the answer most of the time is simple.

There is a great definition of humanitarianism. It is an attempt to honour the dignity of a person, who does not have a choice.

With CBM’s continued support of the work of the team at Nkhoma, this attempt can continue! And the goal of eradicating avoidable blindness in Central Malawi can be achieved.

It’s a bold idea, and one that I and the team here don’t often get the chance to sit down and really consider. We usually just get on with the work at hand! But the photo of John Round and his family; the great view, great happiness and also great poverty was a contrast that brought much of the realities of work and life here into sharp focus.

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