Comm Eye Health Vol. 18 No. 56 2005 pp 129. Published online 01 December 2005.

Stamping out blindness

Juzer Surka

Professor and Head of Department of Ophthalmology, WSU and Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, Mthatha, South Africa.

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South Africa has joined forces with the rest of the world to create awareness of the prevention of blindness by issuing a stamp and commemorative envelope on World Sight Day (13 October 2005). This was achieved with the support of the chancellor of the Mthatha post office. The stamp was unveiled by the Chief Executive Officer of the South African Post Office at a function held at Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital Complex in Mthatha on 14 October 2005.

Designed by Saskia van Wyk, the stamp design is minimalist with only a coloured outer frame and white inner area. The word “hello” is embossed in Braille. Melvyn Minaar, an art critic in South Africa, described this stamp as the most elegant postage stamp issued by the South African Post Office. He further describes this stamp as a powerful statement about sight and visibility. The stamp makes a subtle statement about the interplay of sighted and unsighted, the very essentials of what a printed stamp is really about. This is the first ever postage stamp issued by South Africa on the theme of prevention of blindness and it is hoped that it will assist in creating awareness of VISION 2020 and blindness prevention programmes in the country.

The South African stamp includes the word ‘hello’ in Braille
The South African stamp includes the word ‘hello’ in Braille

The Department of Ophthalmology at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital also organised a ‘Cataract Blitz’ during the same period which was supported by the Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness and the Lions Club of Mthatha and was sponsored by Pick ‘n Pay (a large supermarket group) and the Rotary Club of Kempton Park. Two hundred and eighty free cataract operations were performed over 11 days. The Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, lent her support to the annual Cataract Blitz and the member of the Executive Council for Health (Eastern Cape), Dr Bevan Goqwana, presented long service certificates to staff in the Ophthalmology Department.