POCATELLO — The World Service Committee of the Pocatello Rotary Club has received donations to fund 43 cataract surgeries for indigent residents in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, through a partnership with the Port Harcourt Atlantic City Rotary Club. The surgeries will take place on Thursday, which is World Sight Day.

The Port Harcourt Rotary Club started its Give Back Sight program in 2018. Locally they raised money to fund surgeries for 16 indigent residents in their community in 2018 and 18 more in 2019. The project was put on hold in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The World Services Committee of the Pocatello Club became aware of the project through a project fair for Rotary clubs in Africa seeking help from other Rotary clubs to help them with their projects. The fair was held via Zoom in the spring of 2021. Kelly Hirning, a member of the Pocatello Rotary Club’s World Service Committee, joined the meeting and learned about the dire need for these surgeries. He brought this project along with two others to the committee for consideration. The committee unanimously chose this project to support. Rich Kirkham, chairman of the committee, presented the opportunity to the board of Pocatello Rotary Club and received their enthusiastic approval and encouragement.

The surgeries will be performed by the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital in Port Harcourt at a discounted rate of $191 per surgery. The surgery will correct vision in one eye only so that more people can receive treatment. Qualified recipients must be effectively blind and unable to support their families or carry out their normal duties in society due to the severity of their cataracts.

Patients are carefully screened by the hospital to verify they are truly indigent and have no means to pay yet have experienced a nearly complete loss of vision due to cataracts. The incidence of cataracts in this part of Nigeria is about double the normal average due to the high air and water pollution from the petrochemical industries located in this part of Nigeria.

The Pocatello Rotary club has partnered with the Pocatello Centennial Rotary Club, the Meridian Rotary Club and with Dr. John Fornarotto and his wife, Kate Fornarotto, of Pocatello Eye Care to raise the money needed for this life-changing project.