The eye doctor restoring sight to nomadic herders

The eye doctor restoring sight to nomadic herders


Ophthalmologist Gladys Atto has vowed to go away no just one behind when it comes to eye wellbeing.

As head of ophthalmology in Uganda’s remote Karamoja district, Atto has restored the sight of thousands of farmers and nomadic herders who would be unable to endure without the need of their vision.

When her buddies in the funds Kampala tell her that they make as much for each individual as she does in a working day, Atto tells SciDev.Net she is dedicated to Karamoja.

Gladys Atto, ophthalmologist. Photograph credit score: Halima Athumani

You are the very first and only ophthalmologist in the Karamoja region. What does this imply in conditions of workload in this broad location?

The workload is truly enormous. In a regular operating day, I end up doing about 15 surgical procedures. I wake up early and start out making ready the people, and get them to theatre. But aside from surgical treatment, getting the only ophthalmologist usually means I have to deal with all eight districts of Karamoja.

Karamoja region

A map demonstrating Karamoja location of Uganda. (Tailored by SciDev.Web style and design desk).

I monitor the other eye care personnel, who are predominantly medical officers — are they looking at people nicely? Are they referring the patient that I need them to refer? I have a WhatsApp team for Karamoja eye care workers. So, when they are seeing patients and they are stuck somewhere, they send a image asking: ought to we refer this? Must we handle?

Gladys Atto tells SciDev.Web podcast Africa Science Aim much more about daily life as the only ophthalmologist in Uganda’s distant Karamoja region.

There are only about 45 ophthalmologists in Uganda. What is triggering the hole? And how do you believe we could bridge that gap?

The hole is in many places — human means, overall health funding, and factors like machines infrastructure. The stress of eye illness is genuinely higher. But, quite a few ophthalmologists are centred in [Uganda’s capital city] Kampala and city centres, you find that quite few men and women want to go do the job in the rural parts. That’s why I feel I’m the first person functioning in Karamoja. In Kampala, people can transfer from one overall health device to an additional and have extra cash flow. I consider the just one detail that [the] government desires, is to consider the spend for wellness staff and some form of enthusiasm, especially for all those who get the job done in tricky-to-arrive at locations.

Donations appeal

Several locations continue to do not have eye treatment units that are geared up plenty of to regulate this burden of eye overall health. So, even if an ophthalmologist is there, they conclude up relocating absent to in which they can have arms-on operate. Wellness funding is so low. If [the] governing administration needs eye care to basically make improvements to, I feel [the] spending plan [dedicated] to health care usually ought to be greater.

You are overseeing the construction of a new eye care device at Moroto Healthcare facility, in north-japanese Uganda. What will that suggest for you and the folks in Karamoja?

It is heading to be a superstructure for us. We can have three theatre beds. So that usually means I can really invite a different ophthalmologist in a camp that I ordinarily operate by itself with all over 100 patients. With that device in, I seem ahead to acquiring at the very least two inhabitants in position that I can train each individual calendar year. We are so privileged that we have a new eye device being established up entirely funded by [international eye health charity] Sightsavers, I think that is likely to go a extended way to address the infrastructure concerns that we have.

You have been recently awarded the Uganda Medical Association’s prestigious Josephine Nambooze Ladies in Drugs award, which was named following the 1st woman medical professional in East Africa. What did this award necessarily mean to you?

For me, the magnitude and impression of eyesight restoration is so big. All these patients, just about every working day are so fired up about observing. This award was so well timed. It created me come to feel that no subject what you do, whether it’s in the village, or someplace in the outskirts, somebody somewhere is seeing what you’re undertaking. And it’s something I can display and be happy of [and] stimulate one more girl youngster who is battling out there thinking, ‘will I make it?’.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

This piece was generated by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa desk.


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