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A visit to CBM’s sight-saving programme in Zimbabwe

Posted on: Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

David Rootham is the Senior Legacy Officer at CBM UK.

A message from Zimbabwe

As I sat in Harare airport the week before the coup, my thoughts wandered back to the people I had met the previous week. Nothing could have quite prepared me for what I heard or saw.

Reason Paivha talking to David Rootham.

I met a woman called Reason who had travelled from Harare to Norton Hospital – about an hour’s bus ride – with her three-year-old grandson Matthew, who has acted as guide for his grandmother for the past year as she is blind.

Reason lives in a very poor part of Harare, selling  vegetables at the market. When she discovered she was HIV positive; her husband left her for another woman. She earns a meagre living on the market. Although her daughter supports her by buying the essential HIV drugs, the illness began to affect her eyesight, resulting in the removal of her right eye.

Reason’s situation grew even worse as her remaining eye began to go cloudy, as a result of cataract. So Matthew has been an essential support to his granny, leading her around the house, avoiding obstacles and showing her where the toilet is. He has become very close to his grandmother.

Reason having her eyes tested by Dr Ute, at Norton hospital, Zimbabwe.Reason was encouraged by her Pastor to seek help and after trying three other hospitals, she finally reached CBM’s partner hospital Norton, where she received a cataract operation. Although her vision is not perfect after surgery, it has given her back some independence and the chance to earn a living – and Matthew can go to school.

Two weeks ago she had her bandage removed and cried out, “Thank the Lord I can see Matthew,” and Matthew replied, “My Grandmother now see.”

I am tempted to say that Reason was one of the lucky ones, as we support around 1,500 cataract operations each year in Zimbabwe, but I have recently discovered that a 2016 survey carried out by CBM, highlighted a shortage of services and around 60,000 cataract surgeries still to be carried out.

With decaying and inadequate hospital services, CBM is the only charity supporting eye health in Zimbabwe and it occurred to me that even with CBM, the challenges for the government are huge.

The story of Reason was in no way unique. Each person I spoke to seemed to have additional challenges in their lives, despite the eye health problem that we had managed to help resolve. I remember waking up early on several mornings in tears wondering if there is anything more we can do, anything more that I could do. Well maybe you feel the same and if you would like to make a difference join us to make a lasting change.

Please pray for the work of CBM in Zimbabwe and all of those living in poverty and struggling with sight problems, and donate to restore sight for more people like Reason if you can. It’s amazing what difference even a modest donation can make: it costs just £24 to provide a cataract operation for someone in a developing country so they can see again.

Sign on the wall at Mutare hospital, Zimbabwe., which reads: Sight is precious. Ask someone who no longer has it.


Top – Reason Paivha.

Second – Reason talking to David Rootham.

Third – Reason having her eyes tested by Dr Ute, at Norton hospital, Zimbabwe.

Bottom – Sign on the wall at Mutare hospital, Zimbabwe.