Former Indian envoy's wife contributes to Ethiopia's eyecare

Addis Ababa, April 30 (IANS) Ethiopia, with one of the highest blindness prevalence rates in the world, will soon get a major boost in medical treatment facilities with the opening of a state-of-the-art ophthalmology centre initiated by the wife of a former Indian ambassador to this East African nation.

The OIA India Eye Care Centre has been initiated by Neeru Singh, wife of former envoy Gurjit Singh. The centre will start operating in two weeks. The project is funded by the Overseas Infrastructure Alliance (OIA) Infrastructure Developers PLC as part of its corporate social responsibility programme, and is part of the OIA Africa Health and Welfare Endowment.

The construction of the Indian centre took almost over a year and cost a little over $3 million. It rests on a 2,000 square metre plot of land in the premises of the Zewditu Memorial Hospital in Taitu Street of Addis Ababa. The construction was undertaken by a local contractor while Hosmac India Plc, an India-based company, established in 1996 with an experience in hospital planning and design, was the consultant.

In an agreement signed in April 2011 between the OIA and the Addis Ababa City Health Bureau, it was said that the centre will be equipped with modern diagnostic and clinical medical equipment. The equipment will be imported from India, said Bhabani Shankar, manager and country representative of OIA eye care centre.

"Treatment for cataract, glaucoma, reflective error, medial rtina, as well as training and education at a low cost will be available," Shankar told IANS.

Ethiopia, with a population of around 85 million people, also has an estimated five million people suffering from visual impairment.

Although over 80 percent of blindness and visual impairment cases in the region are preventable, thousands of people continue to lose their sight because currently there are only two hospitals in the country that offer eyecare services.

The Indian centre will be able to conduct over 5,000 eye surgeries annually, Shankar said.

Currently, the health services in Addis Ababa serves only 45 percent of the city's population of 2.9 million, according to the health ministry.

Before the construction of the Indian eye care centre, the OIA had donated $50,000 to the archbishop of the Ethiopia Orthodox church in 2008 for the construction of a school dormitory and an orphanage.

Established in 2008 in Ethiopia, the OIA has been participating in various works. It has offices in India, Mozambique, Sudan and Benin.

The OIA has also helped in the construction of a sugar factory with $350 million, and has been awarded the design and survey of the Mekelle-Djibouti railway line for $78 million.

Economic and commercial relations between India and Ethiopia are centuries old and can be traced back to the past 2,000 years of recorded history. n recent years, business ties between the two countries have grown significantly, especially in infrastructure projects.

(Hadra Ahmed can be contacted at hadraahmed@gmail.com)