African eye-saver

DENNIS WILLIAMS, the only ophthalmologist working in Sierra Leone during the civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002, has died, aged 67.

DENNIS WILLIAMS, the only ophthalmologist working in Sierra Leone during the civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002, has died, aged 67.

Working for the charity Sightsavers, Williams regularly braved the battlefield to go to work and ensure that patients were still treated and operated on.

Under his leadership, Sightsavers was one of the few international non-governmental organisations to remain in Sierra Leone throughout the war.

Dennis Folorunsho Churchill Williams was born on July 2, 1944, in Freetown and educated at Sierra Leone Grammar School. He later gained a scholarship to Bucharest University's faculty of general medicine and pharmacology in Romania, and was inspired to work as an ophthalmologist after his uncle was blinded by cataracts.

Williams later served as a medical officer with the Sierra Leone armed forces and won another scholarship, to study ophthalmology at the University of Freiburg in what was then West Germany.

Since 1989, more than 960,000 people in Sierra Leone have received treatment for eye diseases in projects led by Williams. For most of his career he was the only consultant ophthalmologist in the country, and is credited with restoring the eyesight of 45,000 people diagnosed with cataracts.

Williams also had a huge impact on the rights of the blind and disabled.

His own eyesight had deteriorated before his retirement, and he had to give up performing surgery. By this time, however, he had trained a doctor of ophthalmology, ophthalmic nurses and cataract surgeons who now provide services throughout the country.

Williams, who was suffering from cancer, is survived by his wife, Pamela, and four children.

Related Articles