Over 1500 people in Kirinyaga get free eye treatment and surgeries as experts link spike in eye ailments to lifestyle diseases

Over 1500 people with eye complications in Kirinyaga County have benefitted from free treatment and cataract surgeries during a medical camp held at Kimbimbi Sub-county Hospital.

This come even as medics raised concern over a rise in number of people having eye complications in Mt. Kenya region. This rise has been attributed to increase in non-communicable diseases.

During the three day medical camp organized by the County Government of Kirinyaga, Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC) and Kenya Society for the Blind (KSB), 36 people underwent cataract surgeries to remove clouding of the lens of the eye.

One of the patients had lived with cataract on both eyes which had cased clouded vision for five years making it difficult for the victim to see clearly.

Patients were issued with glasses, medication and white canes for free.

Speaking during the medical camp, County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Medical Services, Public Health, and Sanitation George Karoki, blamed rise in eye ailments in Mt. Kenya to increase in non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer and hypertension.

“This particular trend of rise in non-communicable diseases is causing a big problem of the eye. We are very grateful for this particular support from these organizations because it has helped us reach out to more people who had not gotten treatment for eye problems,” he said.

He emphasized that Governor Anne Waiguru has prioritized healthcare as one of her deliverables and this what informed initiative to set up an ultra-modern eye unit at the Kerugoya County Referral Hospital.

“We have invested in establishing a state-of-the-art eye clinic complete with staff, an ophthalmologist, and a fully equipped theatre for eye problems,” he added.

Karoki urged residents to undergo regular eye checkups, noting that early detection and diagnosis could lead to quicker treatment and prevent further complications.

The Kenya Society for the Blind (KSB) lauded efforts by for its efforts to offer specialized eye treatment so as to help in the eliminating avoidable blindness.

KSB Chief Executive Officer Samson Waweru said establishment of an eye unit at the Kerugoya County Referral Hospital has ensured people facing eye problems do not have to travel to Nairobi for specialist treatment.

Waweru said about 10 million Kenyans are at a risk of getting blind, however, 85 to 90 percent of those who are likely to go blind have treatable cases if they are screened earlier.

He said the lead cause of blindness in the country is uncorrected deflective errors, cataracts, trachoma and other lifestyle diseases.

“The statistics of visually impaired people according to the 2019 census stands at 334,000 legally blind individuals across the country. But the concerning statistics from the Ministry of Health is that 10 million Kenyans could wake up tomorrow to find themselves blind. This means that one out of every four Kenyans could face blindness, which is why this medical camp is crucial, as 85-90% of these cases are treatable,” he emphasized.

REREC Board Director Mark Nderitu explained that while REREC’s primary mandate is rural electrification, their involvement in the medical camp is part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts.

“REREC is running 322 electrification projects across nine counties in the Mt. Kenya region, targeting to electrify over 15,500 households. In Kirinyaga, REREC has 20 projects aiming to electrify 1,250 households,” he said.

Nderitu said expansion of electricity connection to unreached areas will help eliminate use of firewood for cooking and kerosene for lighting in homes.

Studies have linked inhaling of smoke that comes from cooking with firewood, charcoal, and kerosene as a health risk and major contributor to respiratory diseases, natal complications, eye problems, heart diseases.

He expressed gratitude to the Kirinyaga County Government for partnering with REREC, saying, “we are pleased with the massive turnout and the opportunity to impact the lives of the community.”

Lydia Mugo, a 78-year-old resident of Murinduko area in Mwea East, expressed her gratitude for the camp.

“I have never seen a free eye medical camp offering surgeries. We are thankful to have these free services through the Kirinyaga County Government and REREC. I have been attended to and my eyes can now see clearly,” she said.

Stephen Njeru, a 70-year-old from Kanjo Sub-location, shared his relief after undergoing a cataract surgery at the camp.

“I had cataract issues and needed surgery and medication. I struggled for over 3 years and was told I needed Ksh. 70,000 for treatment. Yesterday, I came to this medical camp, had the surgery done for free and now though the eye hasn’t healed completed, I have started seeing clearly images than before. I can see well, and the problem is gone. I am grateful,” Njeru stated.

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