HUNDREDS of blind people can see again thanks to a medical mercy mission to Ethiopia organised by a former Inverclyde nurse.

Ergate Ayana, who runs the ‘Fighting Blindness in Ethiopia’ (FBIE) charity, teamed up with sister charity Fiona’s Eye Fund for the life-changing mission in Dilla, in the south of the country.

The 78-year-old, of Auchneagh Avenue, said it was a record-breaking trip with over 500 patients treated in total, including 270 operations.

Ergate said: "It was very successful.

"We treated 69 patients in one day, that's the highest ever number we've treated in one day in the 14 years I have been involved.

"We operated on 270 people and helped them get their sight back.

"In total we saw over 500 patients."

Ergate says it is 'so rewarding' to treat cataracts in people who have gone blind.

He said: "One woman who came along was so scared to get the local anaesthetic.

"We tried our best to persuade her but she left.

"She came back on the second and third day and the same thing happened.

"But on the fourth day she came back and underwent the operation.

"You can't imagine the joy she felt to get her eyesight back."

Ergate says 1.8 million people in Ethiopia are blind as a result of untreated cataracts.

During their mercy mission to the country, Ergate and the voluntary team of doctors and nurses give their time and services free of charge to give people the gift of sight.

He said: "In 2006, when I started, there were four eye doctors in the country.

"Now there are over 150 but that is still not enough."

As well as cataracts, Ergate says they also see a lot of patients who suffer from trachoma - a type of bacterial eye infection which is leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide.

He said: "We treat cataracts and we refer them to the hospital for trachoma cases."

Ergate says the trip would now have been possible without the support they receive from the local community and businesses.

He said: "After a story appeared in the Greenock Telegraph before the trip, I received £2,000 worth of donations .

"It was absolutely amazing.

"The trip costs about £21,000 in total so we are so grateful for all the help we have received."

Ergate is already planning to return to the country next year to continue his life-changing work.