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Local Foundation Provides Free Eye Surgeries in Juba

FILE - A patient receives free eye surgery sponsored by the Dr. Phillip Tongun Foundation at Juba Teaching Hospital in Juba, South Sudan, Nov. 8, 2022.

The Dr. Phillip Tongun Memorial Eye Camp in the South Sudan capital of Juba performed free eye surgeries this week on more than 100 patients with cataracts and screened more than 500 people.

The surgeries, performed at Juba Teaching Hospital, were part of an annual initiative by the Dr. Phillips Tongun Foundation which commemorates the legacy of the late doctor and South Sudanese independence figure.

John Guot Deng, an ophthalmic officer at the Juba Teaching Hospital, told South Sudan in Focus that the team exceeded their target of 100 free eye surgeries.

"We have gone beyond the target, we have operated 104 cataract surgeries, and we did not end there. We went to do some other eye operations," he said, as well as "eye cleanings."

The hospital conducts cataract surgeries every Thursday, but the Tongun Foundation helped far more patients, Deng said.

“We are actually very thankful for the staff of Juba Teaching Hospital. All of them came in and showed us much support for working tirelessly from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. every day, Monday to Friday," Emmanuel Tongun, the foundation's managing director and son of the late Dr. Phillips Tongun, told South Sudan in Focus.

Emmanuel Tongun encouraged companies operating in South Sudan to step up their corporate responsibilities by giving back to the community who are in dire need of services.

The foundation typically schedules free eye surgeries every World Sight Day on Oct. 13 but this year's procedures were pushed back to November.

Juba Teaching Hospital medical assistant Mariam Saturlino Arika, who registered patients at the eye surgery camp, said she was grateful to be part of the weeklong effort, adding that many people in Juba suffer silently because they can cannot afford the cost of an operation.

"I see this initiative is good; it should continue because it can help the people who cannot get medicines,’’ Arika told VOA. "It has helped a lot of people."

Margaret Wakasa, 70, told South Sudan in Focus she has suffered from cataracts since 2019 but could not get help so she was grateful to receive free eye surgery after hearing about the eye camp on VOA’s South Sudan In Focus.

“When I was sitting in the house I put on the Voice of America; I normally listen to Miraya and the Voice of America. I came yesterday. I was here, and they didn’t do it but today I came,” Wakasa told VOA.

Dr. Philip Tongun, who died in 2014, first opened a pharmacy in Juba — then in Sudan — in 1974 with satellite branches in the towns of Yei, Torit, Nzara and Kapoeta. But all the pharmacies were destroyed in Sudan's civil war between 1983 and 2005.

He was instrumental in South Sudan’s struggle for independence, mobilizing resources and coordinating the delivery of medicines to areas under the control of the then-rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Army/Movement to help treat fighters on the front lines.