Dr. Ndume and happy patients in Namibia

Blindness in Namibia

Namibia is situated in southwestern Africa, bordering Zambia, Angola, Botswana, and South Africa. The country achieved independence from South Africa in 1990, after enduring decades of apartheid. Since independence, Namibia has made strides in reforming and desegregating its health system. However, access to healthcare remains an issue. According to the World Health Organization’s Country Cooperation Strategy, over 40 percent of Namibians live further than five kilometers from a health facility, and in the middle region of Hardap, 82 percent of patients reported waiting more than three hours for health services.

Compounding the difficulties in healthcare infrastructure, only 2 ophthalmologists serve the entire country, which is over twice the size of Germany. According to census data from 2011, visual impairment was the second most common disability in Namibia. Almost 30,000 are blind or visually impaired. Furthermore, the 2011 Census Disability Report found that 45 percent of blind Namibians never attended school. Among Namibians with visual impairments, 28 percent had never attended school.

SEE in Namibia

SEE has partnered with Dr. Helena Ndume since 1997 to operate clinics in four northern Namibian cities: Rundu, Oshakati, Oshikuku, and Engela. Dr. Ndume’s passion for this work stems from the civil unrest that she witnessed as a child living under the apartheid regime. She received the inaugural United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize in recognition for her service to humanity. Dr. Ndume has performed more than 35,000 sight-restoring surgeries in Namibia and around the world, free of charge.

During SEE’s two annual campaigns in the towns of Rngela and Rundu, our volunteer doctors typically screen about 800 people and provide 675 free sight-restoring surgeries.

Longtime SEE Doc, Dr. Helena Ndume Makes BBC Women’s 100 List

Namibia’s Miracle Doctor, Dr. Helena Ndume, is an in-country ophthalmologist who has been working with SEE for over 23 years to provide over 35,000 people sight-restoring cataract surgeries. Read more about Dr. Ndume and her BBC Women’s 1000 List nomination.

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