The head of Turkish Airlines visited an Ethiopian hospital yesterday where the national flag-carrier is supporting life-changing eye operations for the local people.
Turkish Airlines CEO, Temel Kotil, was in Addis Ababa's Menelik II Hospital where cataract removal procedures backed by the company are helping to restore people's sight.
A week-long series of procedures will "provide cataract removal operations to a total of up to 1,000 people," Menelik II Hospital's general manager, Kibebew Workineh, told Anadolu Agency (AA).
According to Ethiopian Health Ministry data, 1.6 percent of the population is blind and many more are registered as having reduced vision. Of those who are totally blind, 1.2 million people - just under half - suffer from cataracts. This means there are around 600,000 people who need cataract surgery.
Seventy percent of those who are totally blind suffer from preventable or treatable conditions.
In Addis Ababa, many people blinded by cataracts crowded the compound of the hospital, which is one of the oldest in Ethiopia.
Teka Tulla, 53, told AA: "I have been blind from this malady for more than five years. I could not see all this time." With a broad smile, he said: "I feel like I have been born again."
Another patient, Shumye Bekele, 70, said he heard of the week-long, free cataract removal service just three days ago: "I came hurriedly, got registered and now look at me, I am a happy man."
A young woman, Halima, said she was very happy to have undergone the surgery: "It saved one of my eyes from total blindness."
Workineh said this was a campaign made possible with assistance from Turkey and was being conducted with the participation of 12 Ethiopian ophthalmologists.
"After we announced the campaign, the number of beneficiaries we received was unexpectedly higher than what we had been prepared for," he said, and called on Turkish Airlines to continue its support.
Kotil said: "This is a tiny part of Turkish Airlines support," adding that the company pledged to look at more ways to support the project.