July 20, 2005 - A mobile team of IOM eye specialists recently screened 150 tsunami survivors in the hard hit town of Kirinda in Hambantota district, and referred almost 100 people for follow up care.
The IOM's Dr Qasim Sufi said the team, consisting of a Sri Lankan eye specialist and four technicians, referred nine people for surgery to remove potentially blinding cataracts.
A further 90 people were diagnosed with refractive errors and referred to Hambantota Base Hospital, where they will receive free spectacles.
"During the tsunami, many blind people lost their guides and were displaced into unfamiliar surroundings," said Dr Qasim, adding that the patients screened on Saturday included many people who had lost their homes in the tsunami and are now residing in camps.
"Other visually impaired Sri Lankans lost their glasses, which makes it more difficult to do everyday tasks such as caring for young children, sewing, cooking, and studying. For children this can have long term psychological and development implications," he said.
The IOM hopes to expand this pilot project to eventually screen 100-thousand people affected by the tsunami.
To strengthen the capacity of the health care system, the IOM also supported a one day training course in eye care for 40 health workers in Hambantota on Thursday.
"We supported specialists at Hambantota Base Hospital to train midwives, health inspectors, and volunteers in how to detect and treat basic eye problems to help ensure all people affected by the tsunami receive basic ophthalmologic health care," said Dr Qasim.
The IOM's mobile eye care team has screened more than 3,000 Sri Lankans so far this year. In May and June more than 2,000 people in conflict affected areas of Mannar and Jaffna districts received treatment and eye glasses, as part of the IOM's ongoing work to support refugees returning from India.
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IOM Sri Lanka