Bekanese: “I always wanted to be an eye specialist.”
How many people benefit through the training of a single trachoma surgeon? If Bekanese is anything to go by, around 100 people a year.
The 300-bed Machinga District Hospital serves a population of 538,345, and frequently faces shortages of drugs and medical supplies. There is also very little government support for staff training. The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative, coordinated by Sightsavers, helps to update the skills and capacity of staff to respond to trachoma locally.
Having worked as an ophthalmic clinical officer for the past five years, Bekanese provided vital eye care services to his community, but was not qualified to operate on the many patients presented with trachoma trichiasis.
In November 2015, the 45-year-old father of five and grandfather of one jumped at the opportunity to be trained by in-country partners Sightsavers to perform trachoma trichiasis surgery. Since then he has operated on around 253 people in his local district of Machinga, Malawi.
“Most of the results are instant,” he marvels. “People who have problems seeing due to trachoma trichiasis have normal sight soon after surgery. I’ve performed surgery on people who had almost lost hope but after being treated they are now fine.”