Ndume wins N$4,75m global humanitarian award

• By Rosalia David

INTERNATIONALLY renowned Namibian ophthalmologist, Dr Helena Ndume has received an award of N$4,75m for her humanitarian efforts at the 104th Lions Clubs International Convention which took place in Montréal, Canada this week.

Ndume has been awarded for her dedication to humanitarian services and medical contributions to the world.

The award will be used to support the programmatic work and train more humanitarian ophthalmologists in essential surgical techniques across Africa.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Ndume expressed gratitude towards the award emphasizing the need of giving back to the community.

“One cannot be in private practices making money while knowing very well that there are thousands of people who are blind and need help. No money in this world can pay for the happiness of someone who was blind and suddenly takes off the eye patch and start seeing again. We have t6o have a culture of giving back to the less fortunate people so that they can be transformed” she added.

She added that the demand to restore eyesight in Namibia has grown tremendously over the years from assisting 82 patients at the beginning of the ‘eye camp’ to helping over thousands of people with eye problems.

The eye camp consisted of Ndume and international doctors who conducted cataract surgery on 377 patients at Onandjokwe Hospital in the Oshikoto Region in 2018.

Ndume went on to praise the former deputy prime minister Libertina Inaviposa Amathila saying that she mentored her throughout her medical journey.

“Settling with SWAPO made it possible to pursue my studies as a young girl. It was my dream to become a fashion designer but I was told that in an independent Namibia we need more doctors and not designers, so I was encouraged to go into the field.

Amathila said I need to become a medical doctor and looking back, I am glad I listened to her and I will forever remain grateful for her gratitude and guidance. She was a mentor and mother figure to me,” she narrated further.

Over the years, Ndume in collaboration with SEE International has performed sight restoring surgeries for over 35 000 men, women and children free of charge.

In 2015, she was also awarded the first ever United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize for her dedication to humanitarian service.

In 1995 Dr Ndume met with the founder of Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International and they worked to reverse preventable blindness in Namibia. She continues to partners with SEE International, whose network of volunteers consists of more than 650 ophthalmologists and medical professionals from 80 different countries, treating cataracts, glaucoma, and allergic conjunctivitis, thus restoring sight to thousands of individuals who would otherwise face enduring pain and hardship due to their condition.

The Lions Humanitarian Award, their highest honour, is given to an individual or an organization with exemplary humanitarian efforts and comes with a Lions Clubs International Foundation grant for up to US$250,000 to a charitable organization for continuing humanitarian activities. Dr Ndume joins a distinguished list of prior recipients, including Mother Teresa, former US President Jimmy Carter and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Denis Mukwege.