Over 70 people in remote areas of Morobe Province have regained their sight over the last two weeks, thanks to a YWAM Medical Ships’ ophthalmology (eye surgery) patrol, with specific assistance from Pacific International Hospital. A further 853 received optometry assessment for sight-enhancing glasses.
Both cataract and pterygium surgeries were performed aboard the MV YWAM PNG’s day procedure unit during her patrol to 21 coastal and inland villages throughout Tewae Siassi District.
According to the, National Prevention of Blindness Committee, the 2017 Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness Report revealed that untreated cataracts, that is clouding of the lens in the eye with age, is the primary cause of reversible blindness in PNG (accounting for 88.6% of blindness), affecting 5.6% of people aged 50 years or older. This means that approximately 40,000 people across PNG are unnecessarily blind due to lack of awareness and access to cataract surgery.
YWAM Medical Ships Managing Director, Mr Ken Mulligan, said that the successful outreach was a team effort.
“YWAM Medical Ships, the Morobe Provincial Government, and Pacific International Hospital all had a part to play in the success of the eye surgery element of the patrol in particular.
“Pacific International Hospital deployed Dr Vivek, as a volunteer surgeon, Morobe Provincial Government took the lead with field planning and, along with our other wonderful partners, YWAM Medical Ships provided the facilities, logistics and additional human resource support.
“These strengths and networks combined helped achieve a wonderful outcome for the 77 surgery patients that now have improved or restored vision plus the hundreds that received spectacles,” said Mr Mulligan.
Among the 77 eye surgery patients, included an 73 year-old woman, Gida Aikung, who had been blind for 4 years due to advanced cataracts. Mrs Aikung was heavily dependent on family members for her every day needs.
Following a successful 20 minute cataract surgery, in which the cloudy lens was removed and replaced with a lens implant, Mrs Aikung’s sight was restored overnight!
Director and Ophthalmic Consultant for Pacific International Hospital (PIH), Dr Amyna Sultan OBE, said that she was delighted with the result of the collaborative effort.
“The YWAM Medical Ship gives PIH an excellent platform for its CSR activity to reach rural and remote communities with much needed eye care services. The combination of both our resources and personnel has achieved fantastic results.
“We look forward to continuing our important partnership with YWAM, as we work together to help combat blindness in rural PNG,” said Dr Sultan.
In addition to ophthalmic services, YWAM Medical Ships and Morobe Provincial Health delivered immunisations, maternal heath services, health promotion, dentistry procedures, diagnostic services and training and support for local health workers. Over 3,100 patients were treated.
Aboard for the patrol were 122 volunteers from 21 different nations, including 30 Papua New Guinean health professionals, mariners and general volunteers.
The MV YWAM PNG is docked in Alotau this week before she departs on Saturday for Goodenough Island, Ferguson Island, and the Suau Coast.