On the 9th of October 2019 the World Sight Day was officially observed for the first time in Eritrea. At the event held in Asmara, Dean of Orotta College of Medicine and Health Sciences Dr. Yemane Seyum said that “Eritrea works relentlessly to prevent blindness”. According to reports the college has been producing a number of professionals who contribute in the medical field and to the nation’s overall fight against blindness. On the occasion we spoke to Consultant Ophthalmologist, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Femi Ibrahim and his students, Ruta Fanus and Daniel Habtom.
Dr. Femi Ibrahim, Assoc. Prof. at Orotta College of Medicine and Health Sciences and Consultant Ophthalmologist at Berhan Ayini National Referral Hospital in Asmara
- Thank you for your time.
Hello, I am Dr. Femi Ibrahim. I have been working in Eritrea for almost two years. World Sight Day is the day that was first set by the International Eye community to raise awareness about blindness and visual impairment. World Sight Day is observed internationally in October. The theme for this year is “Vision First.” It is the first for Eritrea. With this first observation we want the word to spread in all parts of the country so that, hopefully, next year the day will be observed in all the regions and main cities and towns of the country.
- What are some of the activities that are being carried out in connection to the day?
We are fighting false impressions about the health of our eyes. People don’t pay attention to the eye until problems start to manifest. There are people who go blind. So our aim is to raise awareness of people to at least have their eyes checked once a year and advocate the budget allocated for eye health care so that we can efficiently prevent and combat blindness. Part of the activities that are being carried out for this year’s celebration is free eye screening in secondary schools, colleges and basically any member of the public. We have set out to listen to people’s concerns and provide related care and consultancy and if further attention is required we forward them to the hospitals. We are also trying to educate the public. We are teaching the public about preventive practices so that they could become aware enough to lead a healthy life style for their vision; for example the kind of food that are good for the eye. In general, the vision of Eritrea, and what everyone is working for, is to have a community where blindness is avoidable.
- Dr. Femi, you are an Associate Professor at the Orotta College of Medicine and Health Sciences. How has your time in Eritrea been while teaching Eritrean students of medicine?
It has been interesting. The students are very inquisitive and that encourages me. Furthermore, every time the students hear new things about the eye they get interested in learning how complex an organ the eye is. They performance grows accordingly as they learn more.
Miss Ruta Fanus, Ophthalmic Nursery fourth year student at Orott College of Medicine and Health Sciences
- Thank you for your time.
Pleasure! I am Ruta, twenty-one, and I am from Adi Gureto. We are here because of the World Sight Day. Besides the symposium on the actual day we have running several activities to commemorate the first celebration of the day in Eritrea. We’ve been conducting eye screenings for the public at the University. We have been listening to their complaints and giving related assistance. A lot of units within the Department of Ophthalmology are wholeheartedly engaged in the program.
- Are you satisfied with how the activities are being carried out?
Actually I am very happy. We get to assist people that didn’t know how important eye care is. We get to screening of their eyes, help them understand how eye care works and if they need further help we encourage them to visit hospitals and also advise them how blindness can be prevented in many, many cases. I noticed that now that the campaign has started people are curious to learn about healthy practices and life style.
- So how do you feel about being of help to many?
I feel grateful and am humbled by this experience. I am just a fourth year student but people have high regard for us and they encourage us to excel in our studies so that we can be a bigger help to more members of our society. I am so ready to one day be out there and be a professional who can help many. It is the reason I have been studying vigorously.
Mr. Daniel Habtom, Ophthalmic Nursery fourth year student at Orotta College of Medicine and Health Sciences
- Let us first introduce you to our readers.
Thank you. I am Daniel, I am twenty one years old and I am from Molki. I am learning to practise ophthalmic nursing; diagnosing and doing research for common eye diseases as well as performing simple ocular surgeries.
- How has studying this particular field of medicine been?
It has been so interesting. I didn’t think about it as much before I joined the college. However, after joining the ophthalmic department I realized that I had so much to learn. The eye is a complex organ. It’s delicate and needs special care. It is very crucial for an ophthalmic professional to be a full person because it’s a challenging field of practice.
- Where do you see yourself after you graduate in three years?
The professionals and clinics for this field are rather few in number in Eritrea. And I think that they’re more needed in the rural areas of our country. My guess is that I will be allocated there. One way or another I will be working where I am needed most.