How it All began
At the end of 2009, Dr. Itay Ben-Zion, an eye-doctor who spent the previous year living in Ethiopia, and Allon Hanania, a movie-maker, introduced the idea of an eye-camp to philanthropist Morris Kahn. The fact that the eye-camp was intended for the Omo Valley, an area neglected of proper medical eye services, and the opportunity to make a significant change in the lives of the people living there, convinced Morris to make this project happen. Itay and Allon traveled to Ethiopia in February and March 2010 to meet with the local team and plan for the announcement and screening of prospective patients, later to participate in the first Jinka eye camp.
Ever since, Allon has spent a few weeks preparing the annual camps and arranging the announcements, screening and mobilization with the local secondary eye care team, while Itay and Morris arrived to Jinka for the critical period of surgery, training the local team and the school screening.
Since the vast majority of eye medicine patients in Omo Valley lack both the experience of motorized travel and the $1 (one US dollar) ride fee, the Kahn Foundation provides transportation and sustenance for those who cannot make the multi-mile walk, supporting their choice of an unknown adventure over life-long blindness!
Announcement ensures that the inhabitants of the area of operation get the news of the eye camp. With the help of local health authorities, some announcements go out weeks in advance to tribes who dwell so far from roads, that their blind might take days just to arrive for screening.
Screening the applicants physically ensures that those who show up for treatment can actually be helped by the team.
Patients are diagnosed out at the bush as Trachoma, cataract, or optometry patients by the local secondary eye care team. Since it is very difficult for the blind to travel, the team reaches local villages early in the morning, working until late at night.
The camp's unique impact
As of 2010, at least once a year, an Eye Surgery Camp Project operates in Jinka, staffed by an Israeli team of doctors and volunteers along with local medical personnel, who together cure eye disease patients of the Omo Valley.
Each year hundreds of cataract patients and trachoma patients are operated on within the Eye Camp. Beyond the medical treatments that turn around patients’ lives, the camps significantly promote awareness to the entire ophthalmology field, and to the prevention of common diseases of the area. During the camps, the doctors jointly treat complicated cases and closely train the local medical team, enabling them to work independently year round.
The SECU is provided (by the kahn Foundation) with advanced medical equipment; including two especially sophisticated and advanced microscopes. During the camps, an Israeli technician provides training for the local personnel, addressing their technical problems. The Israeli team (led by Mr. Morris Kahn, Dr. Itay Ben Zion and Allon Hanania) also provides the supply of all consumables that are rarely found in the area and are required for ophthalmologic treatments and surgeries, including ointments, medications, eye drops etc. (all supplied by The Kahn Foundation.)
Throughout the camp time, hundreds of eye examinations are performed, and eyeglasses are supplied by prescription to those found to be in need. In view of the advantages of early diagnosis and treatment, in recent years the eye exams focused on local school children in Jinka.
From the project's very earliest stages , the excellent collaboration between the Israeli and Ethiopian teams was highly recognized as vital, and the Israeli team always operated under the auspices of the local health authorities.
Recently, several international NGOs have entered the area, and effective cooperation between the the various associations can best benefit the Omo Valley people.
Altogether, since 2010, thousands of procedures were performed in the SECU and the lives of many people were completely transformed.