Briton, Dr. Karen Woo, was working in the north eastern province of Badakhshan with CBM partner agency IAM (International Assistance Mission).
On Friday the 6th August 2010, Dr. Karen Woo and her team from the International Assistance Mission (IAM) were killed while returning from an eye medical outreach visit in Nuristan Province, Pakistan.
CBM, who have been working closely with IAM in Afghanistan for 30 years, expressed their deep condolences to the families and friends of Karen and her colleagues. Mike Davies OBE, CBM’s Head of Overseas Programmes (right), says "this tragic and needless loss of life will be felt not only by the families and friends of Karen and her colleagues, but by the people of Afghanistan itself, whom she died serving."
CBM, the overseas disability charity, is a major financial supporter of the NOOR Eye Care Program. NOOR provides eye care to all those who need it, regardless of their ability pay. NOOR provide affordable, high quality ophthalmic medications and eyeglasses for IAM and other eye care providers; to train ophthalmic care providers at all levels; to reach a higher level of technical and financial sustainability; and to support the goals of the Vision 20/20 initiative
The Afghanistan-based IAM has been almost continuously present in Afghanistan since 1966, providing a wide range of medical services to people with visual, physical and mental health problems. Its work is facilitated by regular grants from CBM.
CBM has been present in Afghanistan since 1978, supporting a network of eight Afghan agencies working in the prevention of blindness field, and provides annual financial support amounting to about £250,000 a year. With CBM help, the Kabul-based Noor Eye Hospital alone in 2009 was able to perform 15,000 sight-restoring operations on destitute cataract patients.
CBM works in ninety countries, amongst populations living below the poverty line, and often in remote areas. There are constant risks present in all these countries – natural disasters, disease, crime, accidents, conflict – only the nature of the risk varies from place to place. All development agencies and charities working overseas have risk monitoring systems in place, working in close liaison with local authorities, to ensure the safety and security of staff, but most risks can only be mitigated, not eliminated. Rarely, but sadly, tragedies happen. This is the nature of development work, and something that is well understood by those who choose to work in this field.
The main causes of blindness in Afghanistan are cataract and trachoma. The number of needlessly blind people in the country is at least 300,000. A cataract surgery is quick, effective and costs less than £20. Trachoma, a chronic infection of the eye that can result in blindness, responds well to antibiotic ointment and a regime of facial hygiene using clean water.
CBM has a strong commitment to working with disabled people in West Asia, a region where about 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. In Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine, the West Bank and Afganistan, CBM is providing technical and financial support to 41 programmes working to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities. In Pakistan, where the flood survivors face a long struggle to rebuild their lives, CBM is working with its local partners to restore essential medical and rehabilitative services, and to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are being met.
In addition to poverty and natural and man-made disasters, meeting those needs is made more difficult by the fact that many people who need help live in remote rural areas, far away from services. It was on one such outreach mission to reach the unreachable that Karen Woo and her colleagues lost their lives. CBM re-affirms its full commitment to continuing to help in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in an ongoing effort to reach the unreachable, and bring them into productive roles in the mainstream of society.
CBM works with over 700 partners in over 90 countries and reaches out to more than 23 million people each year. CBM is recognised by the World Health Organisation and supports over 800 projects.
CBM, the overseas disability charity, works to improve the lives of people with disabilities in the world’s poorest communities. Our goal is to empower people to change their own lives. Based on its Christian values and over 100 years of professional expertise and experience, CBM addresses poverty as a cause and consequence of disability, and works in partnership to create a society for all. CBM helps people regardless of their religious beliefs.
Viv Ayas and Mike Davies
A Cambridge charity pays tribute to Dr Karen Woo (BBC)
How Afghanistan gets in your Blood (Telegraph)
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