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A Year after the Appeal - Ras Morbat Eye Clinic

In 2019 JMECA launched a successful appeal to raise funds for specialised eye surgery equipment needed at the Ras Morbat Eye Clinic in Aden.  Bill Schwartz has kindly given us an update on how the clinic is progressing in 2020:

The Ras Morbat Clinic offers the full spectrum of eye care to those who cannot afford treatment in the normal clinics. It operates out of the Christ Church compound in Aden, staffed entirely by Yemeni Muslims who are very proud to serve their society with the support of Christians from all over the world, testifying to God’s blessing in their lives through their participation in this compassionate ministry. We enjoy excellent relationships with the Yemen Ministry of Health and the Medical College at the University in Aden, whose students serve short internships at our clinic from time to time.

In the years before the war began in 2015 the staff operated remote clinics in local schools, in the UNHCR refugee camp (±2,000 Somali refugees) outside Aden, and in different village locations where eye care is not readily available. These days, because it is not safe to carry expensive and delicate diagnostic equipment outside of Aden, the UNHCR administration busses patients to Aden to the clinic once a week for treatment. Another day of the week the Yemen Society for the Blind brings patients.

The Ras Morbat clinic was closed only for a couple of months during the beginning of the war, as shelling hit all around in the local neighbourhood, but we were able to open immediately after the fighting moved away from that area (and then eventually away fro Aden in general) and has been functioning fully and smoothly ever since. During the fighting in and around Aden our clinic partnered with Medicins Sans Frontiers in treating head and eye wounds originating from fighting and the mines left by the retreating factions. Unfortunately, many of these patients were children.

In general, the clinic sees between 50-65 patients per day with two days featuring surgery for cataracts and glaucoma. The financial support of Christians in UK helps cover the staff salaries and operational costs of the facility and allows the church to offer care that costs the patient only the ‘consumables’ involved in their treatment. For instance, surgery to remove a cataract is charged the equivalent of US$75. Pharmaceuticals are charged at cost price. This not only makes treatment more affordable for the patient but also allows the patient to maintain personal dignity.

We look forward to the restoration of peace and civil order and the anticipation that Christian medical staff will again be able to partner with our Yemeni medical team in serving the poor in Yemen. The staff are very conscious of the prayers of Christians from all over the world, and they are confident of God’s blessings on their work because of your prayers.

We are grateful for the support of JMECA and others for the purchase of ophthalmic surgical equipment for phaco-emulsion procedures which allows treatment of cataracts before the disease progresses to blindness. Since acquiring the equipment our staff were trained in Cairo and also locally in Aden to perform this particular kind of surgery, and the response within the community is overwhelmingly appreciative. The most important benefit is that older people with cataract disease can be treated and continue to work to support their families instead of becoming dependent themselves with increasing blindness.

Eye Surgery at Ras Morbat Clinic Aden
Since the Appeal: the new equipment is the yellow box in the left of the picture

Anglican presence in Aden goes back 1837, when Aden was established as a major coaling station for ships moving between UK and India. Both Anglican and Roman Catholic churches were built to provide Christian nurture for the many British residents there. Christ Church was constructed in 1863, to augment the church building in Crater. After the British withdrew from Aden in 1967 the church building was used as a warehouse by the then Communist regime which controlled Aden. In 1993, after north and south Yemen were unified, negotiations between the Rt Revd. John Brown, bishop in the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, resulted in Christ Church being handed back to the Anglican Church for outreach to the expatriate Christians in the Aden area. The Yemeni government knew of schools and hospitals operated by the Anglican Church in other countries of the Middle East and requested that a school might be operated on the grounds of the church compound. Eventually, in1996, a primary health care clinic focusing on the needs of poor families in the Tawahi area was opened, staffed by a combination of expatriate and national health workers. In October 2002 the work was expanded to include eye treatment for Yemenis who could not get treatment in the government hospitals and could not afford care in the private clinics of Yemen. Eventually, the government opened a general clinic in Aden just 200 meters from our location at Ras Morbat and in 2015 it was decided to close the primary health care outreach and focus on eye care. The work has grown ever since.

Since early 2015 between fighting between different factions and very limited civil control over the society, it has not been safe for expatriates to live in Aden. The church remains open and is used for prayer by some very few Yemeni Catholics whose own church was destroyed by looters and vandals during the civil war. However, the Ras Morbat Clinic has continued to serve poor Yemenis all through the crisis. It is currently served entirely by Yemeni Muslim doctors and technicians in the shadow of Christ Church and the mission of the clinic is clearly understood in the society as an outreach of the Christians associated with Christ Church. In fact, it was the local Yemeni neighbours who repelled looters and vandals who came to the church, declaring that the people at the church and clinic serve the society and must be left alone to continue their work.

Surgeons at the Ras Morbat Eye Clinic
Surgeons at the Ras Morbat Eye Clinic