March 8, 2017
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Humanitarian aid organisation Mercy Air, headquartered in South Africa, has commenced flights in Swaziland to provide eye care to rural areas using an Airbus Helicopters AS350B2. It is also planning to increase the frequency of its mobile health clinics to include more general medical services.
COO Matthias Reuter tells EBAN the story of Vujshwa: “Vujshwa is only five years old but he was already losing his vision. He was born with glaucoma, a disease which builds up pressure in the eye and, without treatment, will eventually lead to blindness.
“He and his family live in the community of Shewula, a dispersed and isolated village in the Lubombo mountains of Swaziland. His mother works hard to provide for him but did not have access to eye care until the Mercy Air helicopter arrived with a team of ophthalmologists.
“Treatment was available at the nearest hospital two hours away. Blindness is traumatising for anyone who is affected by it, but it can be even more devastating in sub-Saharan Africa. Mercy Air, in partnership with ophthalmologists in Swaziland, has already helped to restore the sight of hundreds and we hope to offer Vujshwa the same chance.”
The operator has the ability to 'drop at the door step' in many remote areas of Swaziland and has partnered with health organisations in the country to reach as many people as possible. Speaking during a recent press briefing, Dr Roger Pacholka from Mercy Air said the NGO was coordinating a sight-flight optometry outreach programme to serve rural populations in Swaziland. He says: “Access to vision care is a major concern in Sub-Saharan Africa due to the impact of eyesight on independence, economic opportunity, and quality of life. We want to do whatever we can to preserve it.”