A new eye clinic in Kenya is believed to be one of the finest facilities of its type in eastern Africa and The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Founding Director, Gabi Hollows, was there to help open it.
The Migori Eye Centre in Migori County is an essential facility servicing up to a million people in the region. Built entirely by funds donated to The Foundation, the eye unit is a giant leap forward for local surgeons treating avoidable blindness in the region.
Prior to the new clinic being built, local ophthalmologists could only complete a maximum of eight cataract cases per month.
With an estimated 3,000 people suffering from cataract blindness in the region, surgeons had an impossible time dealing with the backlog.
Eye health staff working in the new facility will now be able to perform 10 to15 sight-restoring cataract operations per day. That means for the first time local surgeons are confident of being able to make inroads into treating blindness in the region.
The unit was officially opened in a ceremony attended by high-ranking officials from across the South Nyanza region, including the Governor of Migori County, Mr Zacharia Obado.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Kenya, H.E. Geoff Tooth, was also in attendance to represent the Australian people’s contribution to the new facility.
This contribution has come directly through donations to The Foundation, as well as through equipment donated through AusAID.
A free eye camp was held to coincide with the opening. More than 600 patients crowded the corridors for days, seeking treatment for conditions they had suffered from for years.
A total of 111 patients received sight restoring cataract surgery over the four-day period.
Speaking at the opening, Gabi Hollows said that the Migori Eye Centre was an important step towards ensuring everyone in the region received the eye care they deserved.
“It’s an amazing sight to be standing here looking up at this new completed building,” Gabi said.
“Fred had a great passion – that there should be no double standards in ophthalmology. Next to his grave in Bourke is a poem that a dear friend of ours wrote. The last verse of that poem says, ‘The keys Fred used to undo locks was vision for the poor.’ Today that door is being opened to the people of Migori.”
Governor Obado promised that the facility would be shared with people beyond his own borders – even to those living in parts of nearby Tanzania.
“This facility will go a long way towards alleviating the eye problems we have, not only in Migori, but beyond.”
“Our friends have come all of the way from Australia just to come and give us this help. Why would we place restrictions on who receives this help? We will be borderless, just as they have shown us to be.”
High Commissioner praised The Foundation’s work across Kenya and said that Kenyan people can rest assured they have a friend in Australia.
“Australians are extraordinarily proud of The Fred Hollows Foundation. Why? Because The Foundation changes lives. It’s changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people all across the world.
"It’s changed the lives of more than 30,000 people in Kenya, and now it’s changing the lives of people in Migori County.”
The final words of the day came from one audience member who said, “Today we know there is a country that loves us called Australia - and we’ll remember there was a man from the soil of that country called Fred Hollows.”
Find out more about The Foundation's work in Kenya.