Beneficiaries of free cataract surgery count their blessings


Like the biblical woman with the issue of blood who had to defy all stumbling blocks to touch the helm of the garment of the Saviour, and her faith bringing her self-announcing healing, downtrodden Oderinde Kafilat, one of the 45 beneficiaries of the free cataract surgeries, decided to defy her bad-mouthed in-laws, the scorching sun, and other obstacles unaccounted, to arrive at the venue for the free medical outreach with the help of her 10-year-old son Mutiu. Perhaps, she had to wait for about 400 others ahead of her to be attended to, but she was filled with hope and steadfastness that she wouldn’t return home the way she left, and eventually, she got a testimony to share to the world at the end.

In a continued effort of giving back to their alma mater, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), members of Obafemi Awolowo Muslim Graduates Association (UNIFEMGA) in partnership with National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organisations (NCNMO) USA recently organised a five-day medical outreach at the university clinic, with 45 people benefiting from free cataract surgeries and about a thousand more from general treatment of body, dental and ears.

Kafilat narrated how she endured the pains on her eyes for over six years till it was finally operated on. According to her: “I just woke up from sleep about six years ago and I started feeling pains in my eyes. I have tried every local means possible to relieve myself of the pain without knowing I was further injuring myself. I applied traditional means because when I went to the hospital, the amount they asked for the treatment was beyond my family’s financial means. Few of my husband’s family members started tagging me as a witch because of the circumstances around how the eye problem occurred.

“To them, only witches wake up from sleep and develop eye problems out of their sojourn in the spirit world. But I thank God that I have overcome that now. I did the operation yesterday and the pain has stopped and I can feel my eyes. I would be going back to the clinic in two days time for post operation checkup. And I can’t wait to tell those that had laughed at me before that I am fine and I am not a witch,” excited Khafilat said.

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In the case of Mr. Gabriel Christopher, he first thought the tenet of the medical outreach was too good to be true even though he hoped it were. According to Gabriel: “When I first heard about this, although I know it is true, but couldn’t believe the numbers of people they said they would be operating on because I know how expensive the surgery is. I was diagnosed of cataract two years ago, but based on financial handicap, I wasn’t able to go and operate it. But I thank the organisers of this medical mission. They have really helped me greatly. Sight is life. If you can’t see, you are as good as not living. My sight has been operated on, and I am very grateful to UNIFEMGA and NCNMO.”

For UNIFEMGA members, giving back is the best way to show appreciation to the school that made them. University of lfe, they said, was the best days of their lives. It was days of youth making friends, learning and embracing life with a passion. They gained so much more than just an education from their lecturers, so it is natural they try to give as much back as they can, either in donations or volunteerism.

In his welcome address, UNIFEMGA BoT Chairman, Alhaji Rafiu Ebiti said that the five days medical outreach which ran from April 13 to 16, 2019 was an offshoot of the collaboration between the NCNMO and UNIFEMGA during the 2018 reunion in Ile-Ife. According to him, “the partnership has three areas of common interest: health, family matters and education. And I am happy that just about a year after that decision, we have been able to bring it to reality. Health is something that is very important. Though we have before now been involved in several projects in the school, it is the first time we are providing free health care in the school. And with the impact as we have seen, we would ensure we make this a regular event. We can’t give enough to our Alma mater. We owe how we turned out to be today to our Alma mater. And as a group, we remain committed to our mission to give back as much as we can to the school.”

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During a chat, head of NCNMO medical team, Dr. Fatai Ilupeju underscored the impact of the mission. “We commenced the medical mission on Saturday, and the turnout has been super amazing. We estimated for a thousand people, but you know how it is when you plan for events like this, you are sure to get more than the figure you anticipated, and we were very ready for that. So far, we have successfully carried out 45 cataract surgeries. On the first day, we operated 25 patients; the second day, 15 patients; and the third day, five patients. Aside this, we have also conducted several free checkups, general body treatment, dental and ear treatments.

“NCNMO is a body based in the Diaspora and has always been involved with several medical missions overseas and here in Nigeria. Our last mission in Nigeria was done around Isolo area of Lagos. Although it is the first time we are partnering with UNIFEMGA, but we are sure to do this again with them and perhaps other groups in not too distant future.

The Vice Chancellor, OAU, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, commended the joint efforts of UNIFEMGA and NCNMO. “This is a laudable effort we would always be a part of as an institution. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of UNIFEMGA, NCNMO and every other alumni body towards the school. UNIFEMGA has, at several times, come to our rescue in the school, and so this is not a surprise. They have taken up and completed laudable projects for the school without any external funding or support; but within themselves, they took care of it. We really appreciate them.”

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Also speaking, National President of UNIFEMGA, Engr. Abdulwaheed Odeyimka said, “This medical mission is an offshoot from the last UNIFEMGA conference held here. It’s a joint effort between us and the U.S.-based NCNMO. Health is a very critical aspect of living. In fact, as you know, health is wealth but not everybody can afford this. Because it is not cheap and the poverty rate in the country is on the high.”

According to him, the programme started on March 30 with free eye-screening for over 220 patients in preparation for 45 cataract surgeries, which were successfully conducted within the periods as stipulated for the medical mission. “We are in collaboration with five team members of NCNMO, as led by Dr. Fatai Ilupeju, an anesthesiologist in Westwood, Massachusetts affiliated with Boston Medical Centre. They worked alongside UNIFEMGA team, as led by Prof. Akeem O. Lasisi, Consultant Otolaryngologist at the University College Hospital, Ibadan and Chief Medical Director, LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, and other volunteers to provide free medical services to people in Ile- Ife and its environs. We are grateful to Allah for making this mission a very successful one. Definitely, this is not going to be a one-off event. We intend to make this at least a yearly event or may be even quarterly depending on other partnerships we are hoping to conclude on very soon.”

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