Orbis Completes Successful Training for Women from Conflict Zones

Under the leadership of, and thanks to, the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) and Qatar Charity, the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital has delivered its first international training programme since the start of the pandemic.

Image of some of the ophthalmic training participants with their trainers on the steps outside of the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital.

For a week at the beginning of November, a group of gifted women in eye care from conflict affected areas receiving humanitarian support from Qatar, undertook simulation training on board the unique aircraft.

This first-of-its-kind programme was designed to bring critical training opportunities to those who may not normally have access, so that they can support more people within their community. Participants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, joined Orbis’s dedicated medical volunteers and staff, for in-depth simulation training on ophthalmic surgical techniques and nursing. This project falls under a new QFFD initiative called ‘Women in Conflict Zones’.

Just as pilots learn to fly planes through simulation training, this programme used virtual reality, cutting-edge prosthetics, and highly sophisticated, life-like mannequins so that the eye care professionals could build their skills and confidence. The dedicated group focused on absorbing as much knowledge as possible - the training utilised 200 artificial eyes during the week.

Esraa AlNaihoom, ophthalmology resident, Libya

Esraa AlNaihoom, an ophthalmology resident from Libya said: “It was an amazing week. It was so concentrated and full of information. The expert volunteers were generous and shared everything they have learnt over the years. It’s incredible how much we’ve learnt in a short period of time. Imagine if we had more time for this, we would master everything! We don’t have access to the same equipment and it’s not familiar to have this kind of simulation training at my hospital. Every small detail during the training was making me happy; I learnt a lot.”

“Women ophthalmologists are increasing in my country, and we’re becoming more competitive in the field. It’s good for us to have access to this type of training and learn to apply the perfect techniques, step by step.”

Dr Samita Moolani, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Orbis volunteer

Dr Samita Moolani, Consultant Ophthalmologist, and Orbis volunteer commented: “I think that the women that came to train, are from areas where conflict can suppress their ability to learn. This programme has included some very brilliant young women with a passion for education and ophthalmology. At the start of every session, I often found them to be unsure of themselves and at the end of the day, especially when almost all of them were holding advanced technology in their hands, there was a change in the way they looked. Their eyes were gleaming with excitement for learning, something that would not have been possible had it not been for this programme.

“Throughout the week, the young women have opened up through conversations about their personal and professional challenges. The group became like a family, promising to be a support system for one another and guide each other through their hurdles.”

Many organisations worked together to bring this programme to life. Qatar Airways, Qatar Executive and Hamad International Airport provided on-the-ground support to the aircraft - the world’s only fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aeroplane - and OMEGA who are the Title Sponsor of the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital visits to the Middle East in 2022.

Dr Maria Jose Montero Romero, Associate Director of Clinical Services on board the Flying Eye Hospital

Dr Maria Jose Montero Romero, Associate Director of Clinical Services on board the Flying Eye Hospital said: “It’s been an honour to lead on this all-women programme. There are 112 million more women than men that suffer from vision loss globally. The availability of female medical professionals is crucial for tackling this gender imbalance. It’s important we create opportunities and support their progression.

“Strong partnerships and teamwork are vital to driving down unnecessary blindness, everywhere, for everyone. Without like-minded individuals and organisations, projects like these simply aren’t possible. I’d like to thank Qatar Fund for Development, Qatar Charity and all those who helped us to realise this programme. We hope the week will be a steppingstone to generating more opportunities for women in eye care, wherever they may be.”

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