Cataracts - Rwanda


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Cataracts - Rwanda


Support the Kabgayi Eye Unit and give the miracle of sight to more children like Kellie who are needlessly blind…

The Kabgayi Eye Unit (KEU) is a department within Kabgayi Hospital located in Muhanga District in the Southern Province of Rwanda. Kabgayi Hospital is run by the Catholic Diocese of Kabgayi and works in partnership with cbm and the Rwandan Ministry of Health, who has recognised KEU as a referral centre for ophthalmology in Rwanda.

The eye unit officially opened in 1993, thanks to collaboration between Kabgayi Diocese and cbm, and significant improvements were made in 2002 when the first full time ophthalmologist arrived. Situated between two major cities in Rwanda, Kigali and Butare, it is easily accessible with public transport and is now the most productive eye unit in Rwanda, performing about 6,000 surgeries every year. KEU receives patients referred by health centres and hospitals from the whole country – an estimated 80% of all eye surgeries in Rwanda are performed by the Kabgayi ophthalmologists.

KEU is focused on reaching the poor, and welcomes patients from within the country as well as neighbouring countries such as East Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda and Burundi. KEU also conducts surgical outreach clinics all over Rwanda to serve the poorest people in hard to reach places.

Kabgayi Eye Unit has an outreach programme to serve people in the poorest rural communities that cannot afford to leave work or pay the cost of travel for checkups. The services of Kabgayi Eye Unit significantly contribute to eradicating avoidable blindness in Rwanda. Cataract remains the major cause for blindness (56%) and severe visual impairment (33%) in Rwanda.


Rwanda is home to 12 million people, distributed over a large area. There is a pressing need for more specialist eye surgeons. Whereas New Zealand has over 160 ophthalmologists, there are just 18 ophthalmologists in Rwanda living solely in the capital city. Consequently, people living in rural areas are especially vulnerable to avoidable blindness and visual impairment, particularly from cataracts and glaucoma.


  • Resourcing the Kabgayi Eye Unit with a local ophthalmologist to provide eye care services in the Hospital and at outreach clinics.
  • Supporting the ongoing training of a second local ophthalmologist to join the workforce at Kabgayi Eye Unit.

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Mother Marie can smile again, Kellie can now see!

1 Corinthians 16:14 says Do everything in love.”

Love has saved Kellie’s sight. Her mother’s love. Her neighbours’ love. And the loving kindness of people like you.

Kellie is three years old, and lives in Rwanda with her mother Marie. She has such big, beautiful eyes. How could they possibly be blinded by the misty curtain of cataracts?

Yet that is exactly what happened when Kellie was little more than a baby. Her neighbours noticed the change. So did her mother Marie. “I tried to attract her attention by showing her a spoon. She didn’t react at all.”

Please send your gift to help give the miracle of sight to children like Kellie in the world’s poorest places.

As she grew, Kellie’s mum Marie started to panic. She knew in her heart her precious daughter could not see clearly, so she would test her. “Fetch a cup, Kellie.” But Kellie would pick up the wrong thing. “She could still see a little – but her world must have been very fuzzy. She couldn’t tell the difference between a cup and a plate.”

Kellie’s parents had very different reactions to their little girl’s descent into blindness. For her father, it was all too much. He abandoned his family, never looking back.

Marie never for a moment wavered from her fierce love for her precious daughter, but she was filled with fear.

You see, Marie has challenges of her own. Infected with the deadly virus HIV, her life is ticking away. How long until HIV turns into AIDS and Marie slowly sickens and passes away, leaving Kellie to fend for herself?

How could Kellie possibly survive being blind, living in extreme poverty, if her loving mother was no longer there to care for her, and she had no father in her life?

Marie felt hopeless and scared for her daughter’s future. Despite her HIV, she had to work very long, hard days simply to feed and care for Kellie. She took on heavy manual labour on nearby building sites. She swept other people’s yards. She washed other families’ clothes. Marie could not go far from home for better paying work. It wasn’t safe to leave Kellie alone, as her cataracts became thick and blinding.

This is how sickness and disability, like blindness, combine to make living in poverty even more extreme in the world’s poorest places. Mother Marie was fighting for her own survival whilst caring for Kellie, and frantically searching for help to free Kellie from her blinding cataracts.

As God so often does, He works His miracles by shining His love through generous people like you, who have never met Kellie but care about her as a child of God.

For a long time Marie didn’t know where to look for the help Kellie needed. Not the local basic health centre, nor the district clinic. No-one could treat Kellie’s eyes.

Then Kellie’s mum heard about a special place. The cbm-funded Kabgayi Eye Unit supported by generous people like you, 55km away. That doesn’t seem that far to us does it, but for Marie it might as well have been in a different country. She could never afford the fare to get to the eye unit, let alone the general anaesthetic and the cost of the eye surgery.

Marie shared her fears with her neighbours and that is when they lovingly stepped in. Despite poverty nearly as bad as her own, they rallied around to pay the bus fare for Marie and Kellie to travel to the Kabgayi Eye Unit.

There was no time to lose for 3-year-old Kellie, as in the first three years of brain development a child can permanently lose the ability to see perfectly, even if the cataract is removed.

When they arrived at the eye unit, Kellie was so sweet, enchanting people with her charm and with her big, beautiful eyes. She chirped with delight in meeting all these new people, even though she couldn’t see them.

As Marie sat waiting for Kellie to be seen by the cbm-funded ophthalmologist, the tremendous love people like you have shown towards her daughter swept over her. She was so grateful to know that Kellie’s operation and expenses were going to be paid in full by generous people like you, who she had never met, living in another country.

When it came to Kellie’s turn, the cbm-funded ophthalmologist examined her and was able to remove the misty cataracts growing in her eyes. In her little blue surgical gown Kellie, under general anaesthetic, was kept safely still and asleep during her delicate surgery.

The quality of surgery the cbm-funded ophthalmologists provide is very high, even amid such poverty. Thanks to generous people like you, children and adults are being given the chance to see, when they could not possibly dream of paying for it themselves.

The next day when the big patch was removed from Kellie’s eye, the miracle of sight flooded back in. Sight – and with it, new hope for Kellie’s future.

This is the miracle of sight that you can be part of today. The surgical materials involved in cataract surgery costs just $35 per person.

For a child it is $230, which is considerably more due to the need for general anaesthetic. I am humbled that people like you care enough about a child, to selflessly and generously help to give them the miracle of sight.

Thanks to generous people like you, Kellie’s world is so much brighter now. What a wonderful gift to give a child living in the world’s poorest places.

Today there are many children like Kellie desperately in need of sight-saving cataract surgery. Please would you prayerfully consider sending your generous gift to help give the miracle of sight to more children – and also to help train cbm-funded ophthalmologists in the world’s poorest places. They work so hard to restore the sight of precious children like Kellie.

Your gift will help cover the cost of cataract surgery for a child like Kellie. Or help train local doctors who feel the call to become ophthalmologists to help more people receive the miracle of sight. There are still so many children and adults whose futures are bleak because they are living with avoidable blindness.

Because of the loving kindness of people like you, Marie can smile again and Kellie can see! She will be able to go to school and gain an education. Because of people like you, she will have a brighter future.

Love has saved Kellie’s sight. Her mother’s love. Her neighbours’ love. And the loving kindness of people like you.

There are many children like Kellie desperately needing the miracle of sight-saving cataract surgery to help give them a brighter future in the world’s poorest places. Please send your generous gift to help fund vital cataract surgeries today. Thank you!