A Turkish NGO is providing free eyecare services to thousands of people in in northern Syria displaced by years of conflict.
In less than a year, the Alliance of International Doctors' (AID) Ophthalmology Center in Idlib has performed hundreds of cataract operations and examined 7,000 people with eye diseases.
Due to mass migration related to the civil war and terrorism in Syria, more than 4 million people are living in Idlib, an area near the Turkish border outside the control of the Assad regime, many of them in tents.
Samer Alkhalil, an ophthalmologist at the center, said the facility sees all kinds of patients with vision problems, retinal diseases, cataracts, and corneal problems.
"We prescribe the required medicine or surgery, if it’s required," he said. "If the surgery is related to cataracts or similar cases of intraocular lens implantation or anterior vitreous cut, we schedule an appointment with the patient and perform the operation within weeks after the examination."
The center does about 100 operations and 900 examinations each month, he said, with refraction or poor vision making up most of the cases.
Alkhalil said there are a significant number of cataract patients in Idlib. "The reason for the high number of cases here, more than other places in the world, is the gap in or lack of (healthcare) services in recent years," he said.
He added that the center is currently working on a large number of cataract operations, besides eye exams and distributing medicines and glasses.
The center is also active in training new doctors, he said.
"We train new doctors who work for the purpose of the specialty – we call them residents or assistant doctors," said Alkhalil. "We provide educational services to them, whether in the clinic or in the operations so that there will not later become a gap in the community caused by a lack of doctors."
He said the center provides support to other institutions by providing free ophthalmology services.
"We try to support them by providing supplies, sometimes scientific support, medical support in any respect."
The group, with contributions by partner institutions, has also been active in various places in Idlib and other places such as neighboring Turkiye and Africa by providing prostheses, cataract operations, and educational operations.