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Feature: Chinese eye surgeons win hearts in Namibia

WINDHOEK, May 16 (Xinhua) -- Lezi Kbamba, a resident in Nambia's Windhoek, excitedly put up a yellow T-shirt wearing a Chinese flag, which he got as a souvenir for undergoing a cataract surgery performed by Chinese doctors.

The guitar artist was trying to express his gratitude to the Chinese who allowed him to "see my audience clearly again." "At the end of the month, I'll hold another music show in Windhoek, and I wish to invite them to be my guests," he said.

The 48-year-old musician hailing from Angola had been troubled by cloudy vision for three months due to a cataract in his right eye. He waited for two weeks before he was chosen as a beneficiary of China's Brightness Action program that offers free cataract surgeries.

In Namibia and many other developing countries, cataracts are the main cause of blindness. Yet getting a timely surgery to cure the disease is difficult in Namibia, a country with merely six ophthalmologists.

This is the main reason why five Chinese doctors and three nurses have visited the African country. In about a week's time starting on Monday, they will conduct some 200 surgeries in Namibia's capital Windhoek and the rural area of Rundu.

On Tuesday, long lines of cataract patients were seen waiting in the ophthalmology department of the Windhoek Central Hospital. Many patients walked with a wooden stick and needed to be assisted into the inspection room.

"The cataract situation is serious here. Many patients are already blind due to a delay in treatment," said Zhang Meifen, an ophthalmologist of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital (PUMCH) who led the Brightness Action team.

"The hospital kept asking us to add more patients on our operation list due to the huge demand," she said. After all operations are completed, the team will also donate their equipment to Namibia, according to Zhang.

Helena Ndume, a renowned Namibian ophthalmologist and director of the hospital's ophthalmology department, said the country is struggling to deal with its huge number of cataract patients due to the scarcity of eye specialists.

As an awareness campaign is persuading more rural cataract patients to seek timely treatment, Ndume is calling for more support to help Namibia treat the bulging number of patients.

"We are very happy that people from China have come to help us fight this preventable blindness caused by cataracts. We hope they can come back again," she told Xinhua.

The program has been performed in China's many outlying areas, where the cataract surgeries are credited for reducing blindness and poverty rates. In recent years, the country has also taken the program to other developing countries in Asia and Africa.

Chinese Ambassador to Namibia Zhang Yiming praised the program's first stop in Namibia for enhancing the friendship between the two peoples and gaining precious experience for future China-African medical ties.

"Now we know Namibia also has a shortage of neurologists and anesthetists, and we have suggested that the Chinese government send over these kinds of doctors," said Zhang.

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