Male doctor using ophthalmic equipment to check a young girl's eyes

Light up Lives: Improving access to eye health services in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is facing a crisis of avoidable blindness. A Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) survey conducted in 2016 under our CBM/Seeing is Believing project, has provided Zimbabwe’s first accurate data on the magnitude of blindness, revealing a higher prevalence than previously estimated. The survey revealed a prevalence rate of 3.7% of the population in Manicaland Province, where the research was conducted and which serves as a proxy for the rest of Zimbabwe. In addition, 13.2% of the population were found to have severe or moderate visual impairment.

The situation has been exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic, with most hospitals forced to pause cataract surgeries to prevent the spread of infection and loss of income making it harder for families to pay for treatment.

The leading cause of blindness is cataracts, which can be treated with straightforward surgery. But as there is a shortage of trained eye health workers and most hospitals don’t have the equipment they need, many people struggle to access surgery to restore their sight. And the country’s dire economic crisis means that even transport to hospital is out of reach for many people.

Our 3-year project in Zimbabwe aims to significantly reduce the number of people living needlessly with blindness or visual impairment in Zimbabwe’s Midlands Province – including:

  • Enabling over 44,000 women, men and children with eye health problems to access good quality treatment and support;
  • Delivering over 4500 sight-restoring cataract surgeries, mainly conducted on outreaches to reduce distances patients need to travel;
  • Providing 1500 people with prescription glasses.
  • Training 1476 health care workers on inclusive eye health to identify people with eye health problems and refer them for treatment.
  • Improving the infrastructure and accessibility within hospitals across all 8 District Hospitals in Midlands Province, including providing essential medical equipment.

Sight-restoring treatments like cataract surgery can take just a few minutes but transform a life forever, not just for individuals but for entire families. Being able to see can mean the chance to go to school, to earn a living and support your family, to get around safely and live independently.

This project is funded by the UK government, through their UK Aid Match scheme.

Between 18 February and 20 May 2021, our generous supporters donated an amazing £1,058,862 to restore sight and Light up Lives in the world’s poorest places – and eUK aid logovery pound was then doubled by the UK government. This match funding, combined with Gift Aid, takes our appeal total to an incredible £2.3 million. Match funding from the UK government will be used to deliver eye health services in Zimbabwe. Public donations will support CBM’s work preventing blindness and transforming lives wherever the need is greatest.


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