Uche Usim, Abuja
Ahmed Salihu does not remember vividly, the sequence of events that left him partially blind a few years ago. His strongest memory is his last efforts to treat the eyes at a medical facility in Masaka, a sprawly village tucked in between Abuja and Nasarawa State, last year.
Unfortunately, paucity of funds brought further darkness to his partial blindness because series of tests he considered unaffordable were listed for him. With no help in sight, the once energetic farmer resorted to depending on benevolent relatives for survival, even as he hoped for miracles to regain his sight.
Interestingly, fortune smiled on him when the management of Tulsi Chanrai Foundation (TCF) Eye Hospital Abuja recently located him and many others in similar depressing situation, during one of its numerous medical outreach programmes. It involves careful rural community profiling that enables TCF management to identify and ferry the poor and vulnerable to its facility for free treatment.
On arrival at the facility overlooking the National Stadium, Abuja, Salihu wailed in advance and reminded his hosts he was without a dime to foot the likely frightening bills such a gigantic edifice may attract. He was reassured for the umpteenth time that the treatment will be free and soon, Salihu underwent comprehensive eye diagnosis followed by a corrective surgery. The package included hospital admission, meals, medication and glasses. All free of charge as promised.
Today, all his eye challenges, especially cataract, are over and the soothing development has turned his mourning into dancing. He is on the verge of returning to his agribusiness.
Nana, a woman who also enjoyed the free eye treatment at TCF Hospital said her predicament could be traced to her family that has a long history of glaucoma. She had battled complications that sprang from endless conjunctivitis that left her eyes shut; until she was also brought to TCF where her sight was restored.
However, Salihu and Nana are not the only ones with such a heartwarming testimony. There are scores of others (men and women) who have enjoyed such free eye restoration effort of TCF in the last few months.
Their joy knows no bounds as many had resigned to fate and agonizingly waited to eventually go blind. Some others had started begging for a living as their terrible eyesight cannot fetch them any vocation or job.
The TCF is a facility established to provide both free and billed eye surgeries and general treatment. 60 per cent of the services are rendered free of charge, targeting the poor and downtrodden; while the remaining 40 per cent are paid for but at highly subsidized rates by the Chanrai family and donor partners.
The hospital is run largely by a Nigerian team of 30 eye professionals who recently underwent intensive training in India. The facility is also being managed in conjunction with the globally-renowned Aravind Eye Care System of India, the largest provider of quality eye-care in the world.
The TCF Eye Hospital, Abuja, was commissioned on July 11 by President Muhammadu Buhari, who hailed the Chanrai family for their transformational projects in Nigeria ranging from primary health care, eye care to safe drinking water, throughout the country.
Founder and trustee of the foundation, Mr Jagdish Chanrai, said that the facility is expected to improve healthcare opportunities for complicated eye patients at a subsidised rate in-country, rather than going offshore to procure such specialized services: “Sixty per cent of our services will be free of charge as they are targeted at the less privileged and vulnerable Nigerians; while 40 per cent will be paid for by wealthier clients.
“Eradicating curable blindness not only offers a person the gift of sight, but more importantly, restores livelihood thereby immediately and favourably impacting economic output across the nation. It is estimated that a US $1 invested in eye-care produces multi-fold effect on economic output.
“When at full capacity, the state-of-the art hospital will have the capability of performing around 15,000 surgeries per annum, with every effort to set the gold standard for eye-care across Africa.”