A big part of the holiday season is helping those in need. And the Evangelical Church of West Africa is celebrating Christmas by offering free eye surgery and treatment.  Isayku Ahmed reports from the northern Nigerian town of Kano.

This is a busy morning at the church clinic in Kano. Patients are waiting to be attended by health officials.  Most come in with different sight-related illnesses.

Dr. Subramaniam  Kirupananthan is the clinic?s medical director. He says the mission of the eye hospital is to provide excellent compassionate care - and training for medical workers. He says their primary objective is to reach the poor with quality and affordable eye care services.

Dr. Kirupananthan says the hospital has two types of funds that cater to poor patients who come to the clinic for treatment.

"We have two schemes," he explains.  "One is a poor patients? subsidy which is provided by Christian by Mission, which supports this hospital, and we also have poor patient funds which is a separate fund created in the hospital.  From these two funds we treat patients who cannot afford to pay. But generally, all patients have to pay a certain amount of fee, which is a lot less than other places."

Not only people inside of Kano town benefit from these services. People who have a considerable loss of sight or are partially sighted also come from different parts of Nigeria for treatment.

Dr. Kirupananthan says the most common kind of eye illness is cataracts.

"(The) majority of patients who come are elderly, who have cataracts," he says. "We also specialize in treatment of children with problems of cataracts. But we also see equally a good number of patients with glaucoma, which is a blinding disease, and which is unfortunately not treated very well elsewhere in the country. So people knowing we take extra care, they come here."

The Evangelical Church of West Africa eye clinic also has an outreach program.

This Christmas, the outreach is expanding to Gombe, Jigawa, and Borno states.

In this program, health workers reach out to patients at their homes in villages or towns, who cannot come to the hospital for treatment.

Dr. Kirupananthan says the health services are for both Christians and Muslims, young and old.

He says during Christmas season, the hospital and its staff show love and compassion to patients in the hospital by giving gifts and offering special prayers for them.

He says they also distribute food to patients who are in the hospital. And provide 24 hours emergency medical services at Christmas.

Mallam Bunu Umar is a 51-year-old businessman from Maiduguri in Borno state.

He has been suffering from glaucoma in both eyes for the last 8 years. But he is now one of the beneficiaries of the poor patient?s funds this Christmas at the hospital. He says he has received treatment and is regaining his sight.

"I am being treated for glaucoma," he says. "I came last Thursday and I was operated on Friday for the first eye and then three days later, the second eye was treated. . I can see, but not very clearly yet." 

He says the doctor told him his sight will be supplemented with medical lenses.

About 2000 patients are expected to receive treatment this Christmas period for different eye illnesses.

The Evangelical Church of West Africa eye hospital has been serving Nigerians as the premier Missionary eye hospital for the last 50 years.

The eye hospital has been able to perform surgery for well over 21,000 cataract and glaucoma patients in the last five years. The hospital works in partnership with the Chistoffel Blind Mission International to provide infrastructure, training and subsidy for poor patients.