Hospital medics’ African assignment
26 March 2013
Three clinicians from Southend University Hospital’s prestigious eye unit have recently returned from war-torn Sierra Leone, where they passed on their expertise to help develop local services.
Consultant ophthalmologist, Mr Niral Karia, his specialist
colleague Dr Eldridge Thompson and optometrist Liz Agrippa
travelled to Yonibana, three hours' drive from the capital
Freetown, to help develop primary care services established by the
Better Lives Foundation.
Mr Karia explained: "The country is still recovering from civil
war and there is no health infrastructure.
"We saw lots of patients with glaucoma and cataracts and were
the first clinicians to operate in the hospital built by the
The trio travelled with a consignment of medical equipment
including an old operating microscope no longer used at
Mr Karia, who was invited by the Foundation to help establish
the services, was on his second visit to the West African
He said: "Doctors are leaving Sierra Leone because there is no
financial incentive to stay, so our main aim is to train nurses and
community medical officers to provide primary care for the local
The three medics also carried out an exploratory visit to
another hospital run by a Norwegian charity at Magburaka, three
hours' drive from Yonibana. They hope to return to Sierra Leone
early next year.
Mr Karia said: "In addition to providing care and surgery, it is
much better to establish a local framework by teaching and training
local people to provide their own care."
The consultant is no stranger to overseas aid, having previously
taken his expertise to South America, other African countries,
India and Burma.
He added: "I have a high regard for the Better Lives Foundation.
All the work is done by volunteers who fund their own trips, and
all the money raised goes to where it is needed."
With pic: Dr Eldridge Thompson and Liz Agrippa (first left in
back row), Mr Niral Karia (far right, back row) in Sierra Leone