Dave’s CBM World Cup blog 2018 – Country: Zimbabwe

Violet lives in Zimbabwe lost her sight 5 years ago. Violet is being supported by CBM.
Dave Taylor.
Author:Dave Taylor
Posted on: Saturday, 16th June, 2018

CBM UK’s Head of Philanthropy and Partnerships, Dave Taylor launches a series of blog posts bringing together his passions for football, tackling injustice and building a more inclusive world for people with disabilities.  Join him on his “virtual sofa” to take a look at Zimbabwe… over the next week as he takes a look at the countries competing from a CBM perspective.Zimbabwe Flag.

Expelled from world cup qualification by FIFA in 2015, for being unable to pay an outstanding debt to former coach Glaudirei Georgini.

Dave's tip:

Zimbabwe has never qualified for the world cup finals, but this time round this football-mad country wasn't even given the chance. Yes, there was an outstanding debt, but that is because the whole country has experienced economic collapse. Zimbabwe International Football Association (ZIFA) have debts of £2.7m, and had to endure the indignity of having to auction off much of its training facility. The opportunity to qualify for the tournament in Russia would have been light relief for the country, but for the sake of a £45k debt, FIFA saw differently. Ironic, from an organisation that has itself been charged for malpractice and corruption!

Did you know:

Nearly 1 million people in the country have a disability, with 71 thousand people being blind. A staggering 72% of the population live in poverty.

Dave cuddling Gnasher who has cerebral palsy in Zimbabwe in 2017.Once known as Africa's 'bread-basket', Zimbabwe has suffered severe droughts, corruption at the most senior levels in government and economic collapse. All of this has had a devastating effect on the people and all public services. Zimbabwe's health delivery system - what's left of it - is acutely overstretched and under resourced. I had the privilege of visiting the country last November. During one of our community visits in a poor, rural community we met with a little girl called Gnasher. Having been a Dad to Benjamin, who had cerebral palsy, I immediately recognised Gnasher's symptoms. Knowing the education, therapy and opportunities Benjamin received in his life, it was heartbreaking to discover that Gnasher receives nothing, absolutely nothing!

The health system carries the heavy burden of the country's high HIV rate, and maternal and childhood illnesses. Provision tends to be centred around the larger towns and cities, meaning that people like Gnasher, who live in rural areas, find it almost impossible to access services. During our visit, we witnessed long queues of people at ATMs trying to withdraw their maximum allowance of $30 from their own accounts. There is no local currency and all transactions are undertaken in $US or via bonds.

We are CBM, say We are CBM:

Against this desperate backdrop, CBM works in the areas of eye health, community inclusion, HIV, mental health and education. And here's a thing: CBM is the only charity supporting eye health work in the whole country! As you can imagine, the task in huge, especially reaching remote rural communities where tracks are often in disrepair and travel to population hubs can take at least a day. Take Violet Mamhovha for example.

I met Violet during a visit to CBM Partner, Norton Eye Hospital. “I started to lose my sight 5 years ago. It was terrible. I live with and look after my grandchildren, but I couldn’t do anything, so it was them looking after me!” Violet went onto explain how difficult life had become. “I have always been a carer. I lost both parents when I was young. As the eldest of the siblings it was left to me to look after my brothers and sisters, so that meant I never went to school. I married young and my husband and I had 14 children, but we lost 11 of them in adulthood; some through HIV, some died of cancer and 2 through accidents.” As I listened to Violet speaking I could hardly believe what she was telling me. My son passed away, aged 16, and to this day I know how difficult life has been, but to lose 11 of your own children!

“Life has been hard. I didn’t really have a childhood of my own, then when my own children died I became mother as well as grandmother to their children. We are also very poor. We have no running water and no electricity. We manage to grow a few crops and we are very fortunate to have a cow, some chickens and a couple of goats. We live a long way from any towns.”

Life for Violet got especially difficult 5 years ago. “My sight in both eyes became bad. It got so bad I couldn’t look after the animals, do chores around the home or collect water from the well. I became very down. My role in life, the only one I’ve ever known, was taken away from me. I found it very difficult to be dependent on anyone, but worst of all I couldn’t see my grandchildren.”

One day someone in the village told her about treatment that was available at Norton Eye Hospital. The problem for Violet was that Norton is 6 hours away by bus, and she couldn’t begin to afford the fare anyway.

Violet’s eyesight continued to deteriorate. With the help of kind friends in her church, and some relatives living nearer to Norton, plans were made for Violet to be examined and receive much needed treatment at Norton.

“I had never travelled so far. It took us all day. When we got there, after being examined I was told that I had cataracts in both eyes, but the right eye was worse. I was admitted for surgery the following day.” That was in 2014.

Violet was advised the she should return within the year to have surgery on her left eye, but like so many people living with disabilities in low-income countries, the pressures of life mean that choice is non-existent, even around one’s own health.

“When I could see with my right eye, I somehow managed to resume my duties, looking after my grandchildren. I’m old, but their young and their needs are more important.” Things, however, got worse, so when Violet realised she was completely blind in her left eye, for everyone’s sake, Violet knew she had to return for surgery.

So, it was the day after surgery on her left eye, while she was in a queue, waiting for her bandage to be removed, that I met this remarkable woman. I had yet to hear her story at that point. The details of her life came as a shock because Violet was… well, noisy. My teenage daughters would describe her as banterous!

And now it was her turn. With little ceremony the nurse removed her bandage. First, there was silence, only for a matter of seconds.

“oh my, thank God, I can see, I can see! Praise God, thank you, thank you everyone, do you hear me? I can see! And without hesitation Violet is up off of her seat, as she leads fellow patients, staff and visitors into a celebration of song and dance. I will never forget it.

Later, as I sit down with Violet, after she has shared something of her life story, she says this:

“I want you to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to CBM and all your friends who have made this possible for a very happy old woman. May God bless those who have given my sight back.”

Zimbabwe won’t be at the world cup and, even if they had made it to Russia, they wouldn’t have progressed to the final. But here’s a thought: The venue for the final, the iconic and redeveloped Luzhinki Stadium has a capacity of 81,000. That’s roughly the same number of people who are blind in Zimbabwe, and many of them are needlessly blind. For just £24, you could pay for someone to have a cataract removed and give them their sight back. And what’s more, for every pound that is given, it unlocks another £4. So, please, help give someone the best view in the house!

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