ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – The head of Turkish Airlines visited an Ethiopian hospital on Thursday where the national flag-carrier is supporting life-changing eye operations for local people.
Turkish Airlines CEO, Temel Kotil, was in Addis Ababa’s Menelik II Hospital where cataract-removal procedures backed by the company are helping to restore people’s sight.
A week-long series of procedures will “provide cataract-removal operations to a total of up to 1,000 people,” Menelik II Hospital’s general manager Kibebew Workineh told Anadolu Agency.
According to health ministry data, 1.6 percent of the population is blind. Many more are registered as having reduced vision. Of those who are totally blind, 1.2 million people – just under half – suffer from cataracts. This means there are around 600,000 people who need cataract surgery.
Seventy percent of those who are totally blind suffer from preventable or treatable conditions.
In Addis Ababa, many cataract-blinded people crowded the compound of the hospital – one of the oldest in Ethiopia.
Fifty-three-year old Teka Tulla told Anadolu Agency: “I have been blinded by this malady for more than five years; I could not see all this time.” With a broad smile, he says: “I feel like I have been born again.”
Another patient, Shumye Bekele, 70, said he heard of the week-long, free-of-charge cataract removal service just three days ago: “I came hurriedly, got registered and now look at me – I am a happy man.”
A young woman named Halima said she was very happy to have received the surgery: “It saved one of my eyes from total blindness,” she added.
Workineh said this was a campaign made possible with Turkish assistance and was being conducted with the participation of 12 Ethiopian physicians who specialized in ophthalmology.
“After we announced the campaign, the number of beneficiaries we received was unexpectedly higher than what we have been prepared for,” he said, and called on Turkish Airlines to continue their support.
Temel Kotil said: “This is a tiny part of Turkish Airlines support,” adding that the company pledged look at more ways of supporting the project.
Turkish ambassador to Ethiopia, Fatih Ulusoy, said the support rendered by Turkish Airlines was a demonstration of the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility.
“I am happy that CEO Temel Kotil announced continued assistance to the hospital,” he said.
Senior eye surgeon and ophthalmological director at Menelik II Referal Hospital, Menen Ayalew, said that in the few days since the Turkish Airlines-campaign began his team had operated successfully on 310 people.
“It is a worthwhile endeavor; a worthwhile venture to help people regain sight and Turkish Airlines did a great job in the field of corporate social responsibility.”
“We would not have been able to achieve this with own capacity,” she said, adding that regular weekly eye-surgery capacity at the hospital stood at less than 200 cases, most of which are cataract-related.
Africa ranks third in the number of destinations Turkish Airlines flies to, with the network covering the skies of 47 African countries.