April 2014

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A peaceful sunset scene in Aden, but it has been an eventful few months at the Ras Morbat clinics since the last update…

The redoubtable, conscientious and endlessly cheerful Dr John Sandford Smith (pictured above on a boat trip with the eye team) returned recently from his 15th visit to Ras Morbat, operating and teaching in the eye clinic. He performed 31 cataract operations and supervised a further 65 carried out by our two local eye surgeons and by a good friend, Qaid, who was long ago one of the first eye technicians. He has since be studying in America and hopes to return home to Somalia to set up an eye clinic there. It is a bold and courageous step and one that Dr John has long encouraged him in. While in Aden, John celebrated his 77th birthday and managed to swim on most days. Patient statistics show that over the years he has carried out over 2500 operations at the clinic. That is a remarkable achievement, but more than that he has, with enthusiasm and patience shared his wisdom and shown others how to do the business. We are enormously grateful to John and to his wife, Sheila, for generously and bravely letting him go to Aden so often.

Dr John and the team all scrubbed up

Dr John and the team all scrubbed up

Plans also continue apace for the Cairo Medical Conference. There are now 7 delegates signed up and eager to attend – including our senior doctor, Nada, the two eye surgeons, Ahmed, technician and husband of Tahani, one of the surgeons, Fawzia, our most faithful pharmacist and others. The organisation and planning of the conference has been energetically undertaken by Dr Edwin Martin through the auspices of PRIME, and there are expected to be additional local participants. Some of the input will be from well-known friends such as Dr Adel, who has often visited Aden from Cairo to operate and train our eye team. The overall theme is: The Long term Management of Chronic Diseases, including Eye Diseases. We trust and pray it will be a thoroughly good conference in every way and prove refreshing, inspiring and really useful to all. The conference will be in mid-May and last six days. While the participants are away, Mansour and Mariam in the office may have to pretend to be doctors …

Tea break at the clinics

Tea break at the clinics

The Council of Reference at its November meeting highlighted the need to upgrade some key pieces of our medical equipment. Consultation with Dr John, other visiting surgeons and the local staff suggested that a more modern and versatile ophthalmic operating microscope would be a great asset, especially for teaching aspiring surgeons. A good, suitable model available through a reliable local agent has been found, its specifications thoroughly scrutinised and an order placed. It should be delivered in the next few months – the purchase made possible by a generous grant from the British Embassy in Sana’a, who seemed delighted to help and to have an opportunity to invest in the work. It was a very generous grant.

On the video screen is an eye operation in progress

On the video screen is an eye operation in progress

Yemen rarely hits the world news – and for that, we should perhaps be grateful. The drowning of a boatload of refugees off the coast of Yemen recently merited brief mention on the BBC World Service. Al Qaeda continue with ruthless determination to kill prominent Yemeni military officers, while the kidnapping of foreigners, mostly in Sana’a, still goes on.

The staff of the clinics continue to work well and the congregation to meet gratefully each week to worship. But from both, Peter and Nancy received anxious enquiries on their last visit about the future leadership of the church and the clinics. John Sandford Smith’s report on his latest visit mentions the low overall output through the eye clinic of patients for surgery and the absence of any outreach programmes. The current lack of security affects both but so does the absence of a well-qualified, competent and enthusiastic resident eye doctor to push and promote the work. Different members of the now very depleted congregation continue to ask in turn when a priest, leader or pastor might be coming. The Archdeacon of the Gulf is planning to visit after Easter to assess the situation. He is no stranger to Aden and his visit is warmly anticipated.

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Peter and Nancy are happily settled in Reading, and enjoyed being on hand for the recent arrival of their second grandchild Huw, a couple of months ago. Mansour visited them several times when he was over from Aden recently, on one occasion appearing on their doorstep with a hot chicken dish straight from his sister’s oven in Southall. They continue to be in weekly contact with him now he is back in Aden, but will soon, a little reluctantly, devolve that responsibility to others.

Do pray for the clinics and for Christ Church, especially for the small congregation as they celebrate Easter.

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