Turkish doctors that conducted cataract surgery on thousands of Sudanese patients as part of a project organized by the Kimse Yok Mu humanitarian aid association have arguably made the most meaningful donation possible for thousands of patients in an area of the world where cataracts are a common condition.
Turkish doctors from all over Turkey volunteered in the capital of the South Darfur federal state, Nyala, where, as a part of the project, they are providing free cataract operations in the Nyala Training Hospital.
Not only are patients of all ages being treated in the Nyala hospital for cataracts, but other ophthalmological health problems are also being treated. Ophthalmologist Ferruh Bican arrived in Nyala from Denizli, and operated on between 10-15 patients a day at the Nyala polyclinic, successfully restoring the sight of his patients there.
Speaking to a reporter from the Anatolia news agency, Dr. Bican noted that in fact cataracts are common all over the African continent. Dr. Bican stressed that currently there are an estimated 6 million people who cannot see due to cataracts throughout Africa, and that of these 6 million, 2 million live in Sudan.
Bican added that around 200,000 cataract patients are thought to live in the Darfur region, saying: “Cataracts are generally an age-related condition. We generally see them after a certain age. This is the way it is all over the world. But ultraviolet rays from the sun also play a big role in the formation of cataracts. Since the sun is very strong in Africa, there are a high number of people with cataracts here.”
Bican also noted the prevalence of eye trauma injuries in the region, explaining: “Many people are suffering from eye-related health problems. In societies where good technology is not readily available, and where education and socio-economic levels are low, trauma and eye injuries can be at very high levels.” Bican explained that in the past two years, nearly 35 volunteer doctors had come to the Nyala hospital, and that in that time frame, nearly 6,000 patients had been operated on for cataracts.
Sudanese view of Turks
Dr. Bican also said while working in Nyala he had the chance to learn what Sudanese people thought of Turkish people. Bican noted that when he first arrived, the local people had watched him from afar, and that it seemed to him as though they were distrustful of him. Here are some of Bican’s observations: “For years and years, whites came here only to colonize, which is why they really didn’t believe our actual reasons for coming at first. Because in the past, others had caused much pain. But right after we started doing our operations, the head of the Darfur parliament visited patients here. And Darfur television crews came and filmed here. Right after those broadcasts, people started referring to us as those ‘Turkish doctors,’ and smiling at us.”
Bican asserted that it has really only been the Turkish Republic who has sent people to Africa to help without expecting anything in return. He said further: “A minibus full of our organization’s volunteers and officials from Kızılay visited the Kızılay depot here. There was an African official with us, and we were talking in a relaxed manner amongst ourselves. Right at that point, I was talking and I said something about how we were the only people that came to help without expecting something in return. Just as I finished saying this, the African guy with us said in Turkish, “Yes, doctor, it is just your people.” Had I known he spoke Turkish, I never would have said what I did, because it could have been misinterpreted as a sign of false pride on our part. Anyway, I said it without knowing he understood what I was saying. But the real truth of the matter is that people from the West do not come here without some careful calculations. There is always something in their interest that they are pursuing. This is what they assumed about us being in Sudan, too, but when they saw our sincerity, they understood the reality of the matter. Throughout history, whenever there have been people in troubled times, we have been by their sides.”