In the press
An Indian UNV ophthalmologist at work in Guyana
by by Laura Downs
07 June 1998
Bonn, Germany: Many of us take the ability to see for granted, we've perhaps never thought about what the world would be like without the sense of sight. Of the millions of people who do not have this sense to rely on, many live in developing countries. Ophthalmologist Dr. Sunil Sachdeva, a 34year-old UNV, devotes his time to improving eye care in Guyana. He is working to strengthen virtually non-existent ophthalmic services in this South American country of 750,000 citizens. He has treated more than 8,000 patients and restored sight to 850 during the last two-and-a-half years.
Guyana, a former British colony located between Surinam and Venezuela, is one of the most impoverished countries in the Western hemisphere. Medical care is difficult and expensive and very few people have access to adequate ophthalmic facilities. Dr. Sachdeva quickly recognised the immense need in his host community and set to work. "One of my greatest successes during my time here in Guyana has been restoring sight to a completely blind 18-year old girl", he reports, as he marvels at the wonder of surgery that provides hope where little had existed. He can be assured of the benefit of his work: the grateful son of one of his many patients wrote "I had all but given up on the idea that my mother could, at the age of 81 and being diabetic, regain her sight. I paid her a visit after the operation and was amazed how well her vision has improved. Our President Jagan was right when he described you as one of our new 'miracle workers.' "
Dr. Sachdeva, who is Indian, is very familiar with living and working in other countries. As an 18 year-old student, he was awarded a scholarship to pursue a medical degree in the country that is now the Ukraine. The scholarship was a joint effort between the then Soviet and Indian Governments. Sachdeva's first experience with volunteering came in the aftermath of a devastating Armenian earthquake: his experiences in Armenia were so rewarding that he then spent time volunteering in India. Despite his love for his own country, Dr. Sachdeva feels driven to "serve a wide spectrum of mankind". Upon learning that there were international volunteer opportunities in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organisation, Dr. Sachdeva made the decision to apply to UNV. In September 1994 he was assigned to a hospital in New Amsterdam, Guyana.
Given the immense need for eye care, Dr. Sachdeva has become active in eliciting financial and technical support from many sources. He recently organised a working visit to Guyana by doctors from World Blindness Outreach, an NGO located in the United States. The visit was partially sponsored by Rotary International. Together an eight-member team and Dr. Sachdeva operated on numerous patients and, as reported by Sachedeva, were able to restore the sight of 50 people. "A competent administrator, a skilled surgeon, and a compassionate physician", remembers Dr. Albert A. Alley, President of World Blindness Outreach, of his UNV counterpart. The treatment was provided free of charge.
During his two-and-a-half years in Guyana, Dr. Sachdeva has designed a pilot eye care programme which was recently approved by the Guyanese Ministry of Health. The training of nurses and doctors, an important step in empowering local citizens to meet their own needs, is a key facet. This training is especially critical in Guyana, because of shortage of medical help in the country. Sachdeva and others involved hope the pilot programme will lead to a national eye care plan for Guyana. In addition to designing it, he has secured funding to implement it from the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind based in the United Kingdom, and from the Rotary and Lions Clubs.
Yet there is much to be done, in order to treat the thousands of patients still awaiting treatment. Dr. Sachdeva reports that microscopes and other equipment are needed. Through letters and personal contacts he seeks these, in order to continue his mission to provide care to those in need.
Outside of his heavy workload, Sachdeva welcomes the friendliness of Guyana's people and its tropical climate. He enjoys the seemingly never-ceasing sunshine. In his religion, Hinduism, the sun is perceived as a God, and he is thankful to be able to "see God every day."
|Home | Contact us | FAQs | Search | Sitemap | UNDP Information Disclosure Policy|
|UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)|