Monday, 4 May 2009
Death of MOOP: the biggest causality in eye care in Malawi resulting from the global financial crisis
I have been quiet for a few months as rumours kept on circulating that the biggest project I was associated with in Malawi was going to stop. Its now official, I would like to announce the death of the Malawi Ophthalmic outreach programme (MOOP) whose sudden death of that fateful day of 31st March 2009 has left some of us with more questions than answers. Some of them are philosophical and include issues of brain such as “Is it worth for Malawi doctors to stay in Malawi rather than follow where there is greener pasture?”
MOOP has been in Malawi for many many years , had reshaped itself over the years but always survived .In the 70’s and early 80’s Prof Moses Chirambo,the only Malawian eye specialists enjoyed the support of Blue peter and Royal commonwealth society for the blind from UK , which later become Sight Savers International (SSI) .Under their funding he went all over the country with those old landrovers ,operating on the blind and making them see. He impact was well known that in 1983 Malawi established the ophthalmic training school catering for the SADC countries but also for other countries in Africa was well .The focus of this school was to train local eye surgeons and under this initiative ver 65 eye surgeons from 20 countries in Africa were trained.
In 1997 MOOP was restructured and secured through Sight Savers International large funding from EU which made the programme expand. The country was divided into five zones and vehicles for mobilising cataract patients were bought for each zone and several eye camps were organised in many districts benefiting the majority of Malawians. As a young medical graduate I saw what MOOP was doing and decided that Ophthalmology field was going to be my destiny.
Today as I contemplate committing suicide after hearing that SSI has dropped supporting MOOP and that there will be no future outreach eye camps in Malawi, I can not just see what life will be for me in Malawi. Why? When I come back to Malawi as an Ophthalmologist in 2002 and settled in Blantyre MOOP had a lot of funding and asked me to organise as many camps so that we could operate on many patients. I travelled the whole year of 2003 from Karonga to Nsanje and operated on over 2000 cataract patients on that year alone restoring sight .Infact it was communicated to the ministry of health headquarters that all eye care activities in malawi were to be supported by SSI through MOOP and the ministry was delighted
Thats the year (2003) that I felt the biggest impact of working as a doctor in community and vowed that as long as I was in Malawi I would give a substantial part of my time to operating in the rural areas.My whole blog is full of stories of where I have been with MOOP, and it still hasn’t sunk to me that MOOP is dead,but why? Well I was in the UK when the stories of the global financial crisis started emerging, and we were discussing that Malawi being a poor country, we would not notice the effects of this crisis .Honestly if I knew this was coming I would have made a decision to stay in UK and work there .Here is a doctor and his team who are ready to operate on many blind patients who are out there, only to be told because of the financial crisis ,those patients can hung? So what will I be doing in Malawi? Is there a reason for continue to stay in this country when you have a valid 5 year VISA for the UK? I don’t know but I believe God has plans for everything and maybe he is asking me to move from Malawi.
I rest my case for you to judge.
+ MOOP rest in peace RIP.
Died Prematurely 2009
MOOP, how could you have gone so early at the age of 38?With your departure some of us have no purpose in life and we are contemplating on changing continents. What will happen to the many hopeless that you gave sight to ?
We loved you, but god loved you most.
Dr Khumbo Kalua is a Malawian Ophthalmologist whose passion for the community was being served through MOOP and is very frustrated and bitter with the global financial crisis and its major effects on poor countries like Malawi. Sight Savers International is a UK based charity NGO that was supported MOOP. The decision to stop MOOP was made at short notice and centrally at policy level (SSI) without consultation of the stakeholders, the technical staff and the Ministry of Health officials in Malawi.
Can you help? Or do you want just to comment? Do you want to call me on +265 999958176 and +26588830232 in Malawi to send your condolences?