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Providing eye care since six decades: Zimbabwe Council for the Blind

Published: 21.06.2022
Busisiwe Mzyece National Programmes Manager
Zimbabwe Council for the Blind
Micheal Mhlanga Communications Consultant
Zimbabwe Council for the Blind
Cataract surgery

Saving and serving Sight in Zimbabwe

For over six decades, we have been guided by the conviction that everyone deserves a chance to see. Since 1955, we are the leading provider of eye services in Zimbabwe where we cater for those in need of eye health services. One of the underreported tragedies of our time is that nearly 90% of the world’s blind live in low-income countries where poverty and blindness perpetuate in a descending cycle. The main cause of this often needless and frequently avoidable blindness is cataracts, which affects 95 million people worldwide including Zimbabwe, a Southern African country. We have noted the urgency to prioritize the prevention of blindness, educate, rehabilitate the blind as well as produce and supply low-cost spectacles hence our erstwhile existence as the Zimbabwe Council for the Blind (ZCfB). The truth is that cataracts and other causes of blindness and visual impairments are not that difficult or even expensive to cure when people have access to affordable eye care.

Service for sight

Schools screeningOur four-pronged life-changing interventions are a stamping print in changing the lives of a population most of which cannot afford these services and has limited knowledge of visual impairment. First, we use the outreach programming approach to achieve the prevention and eradication of blindness where our mobile eye units offer primary eye care and perform minor ophthalmic operations inclusive of cataract surgeries across the country. Secondly, realizing that blind children are most affected, the “Open Education” concept, our flagship strategy with the Government of Zimbabwe has seen the enactment of resource centres in Primary and Secondary schools that facilitate the integrated education of the blind and visually handicapped with normally sighted children. Over and above, the Schools Screening services we offer has changed the lives of many school going children. Our involvement in the education sector is amplified by the rehabilitation programme which is the fourth field, which illuminates the need to cater to the visually impaired, people who are too old to be in school or unemployed. As of 2018, we have started offering low vision services through which we screen, assess and issue low-cost low vision devices. We are all about affordable sight service.

Our birth

Sixty-seven years ago, in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, Bulawayo, Sir John Wilson the then Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind recommended the coordination of voluntary organizations concerned with blindness. At that point, the British Empire Society for the Blind, later to be known as the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, now Sight Savers International was pivotal in the inception of this lifesaving public intervention. From this was born the Coordinating Committee for the Blind Welfare, the progenitor of the present Council for the Blind headquartered in Bulawayo. The idea was to prevent blindness through operations only to discover that there are many blind children of school-going age which led to the concept of “Open Education”.

Why did we join IAPB

Joining IAPB is exciting for us as we will document and share experiences of our achievements on eye care in Zimbabwe and globally. We do not doubt that we could reach more people, only if resources and partnerships expand and are strengthened. Furthermore, joining IAPB will enable us to grow as we learn from members worldwide. We envisage to see our communities with better eye health and expand our territory and influence worldwide.