A Catholic Monthly Magazine

cbm New Zealand

Preventing blindness by working with the Catholic Kabgayi Eye Unit in Rwanda

In the poorest places, child blindness is a matter of life and death. It is absolutely vital that the Kabgayi Eye Unit keeps operating on children like Obed to give them the miracle of sight and help save their lives

cbm is an international Christian development organisation, committed to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in the poorest countries of the world. cbm envisions an inclusive world in which all persons with disabilities enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential.

The Kabgayi Eye Unit (KEU) is a department within Kabgayi Hospital located in Muhanga District in the Southern Province of Rwanda. Kabgayi Hospital is run by the Catholic Diocese of Kabgayi and works in partnership with cbm and the Rwandan Ministry of Health, which has recognised KEU as a referral centre for ophthalmology in Rwanda.

The eye unit officially opened in 1993, thanks to collaboration between Kabgayi Diocese and cbm and significant improvements were made in 2002 when the first full time ophthalmologist arrived. Situated between two major cities in Rwanda, Kigali and Butare, it is easily accessible with public transport and is now the most productive eye unit in Rwanda, performing about 6,000 surgeries every year. KEU receives patients referred by health centres and hospitals from the whole country - an estimated 80% of all eye surgeries in Rwanda are performed by the Kabgayi ophthalmologists.

KEU is focused on reaching the poor, and welcomes patients from within the country as well as from neighbouring countries such as East Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda and Burundi. KEU also conducts surgical outreach clinics all over Rwanda to serve the poorest people in hard to reach places.

Dr David Ngabo

cbm and KEU are working together turning blindness into sight by providing:

  • consultations and eye surgeries
  • paediatric ophthalmology
  • microsurgeries
  • low vision and optical workshops
  • eye equipment and consumables
  • human resource development
  • training of local ophthalmologists
  • capacity building to help other eye units in Rwanda
  • construction of a new paediatric unit
  • the production of local eye drops

Cataract remains the major cause for blindness (56%) and severe visual impairment (33%) in Rwanda.

KEU is the only eye centre in Rwanda to perform microsurgeries. With cbm support, KEU has set up a well-equipped unit for eye cancer to treat patients from Rwanda and neighbouring countries. The unit has initiated chemotherapy for retinoblastoma children since March 2012.

Dr Murray Sheard received his PhD in Ethics and Philosophy from The University of Auckland. He has worked in international development for over 5 years and is the Chief Executive Officer of cbm New Zealand

There is a shortage of ophthalmologists in Rwanda but through the generosity of cbm supporters, a local doctor, Dr David Ngabo, has started a four-year training programme to become an ophthalmologist. Growing up an orphan, Dr Ngabo was driven to become a doctor to bless the community that raised him. It was his own neighbour who inspired his desire to be an eye surgeon. There were simply not enough ophthalmologists in the country and he saw the need for vital eye surgeons. Dr Ngabo began work in the KEU straight out of medical school. He contributes to all kinds of medical work – except eye surgery. That remains his dream: to qualify as an eye surgeon to help save the sight of more patients like Obed.

If you would like to learn more about how you can help build an inclusive world in which all people with disabilities enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential, please visit www.cbmnz.org.nz

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