Seeing is Believing Launch: Strengthening Vision 2020 in North-East Zimbabwe

The launch of Standard Chartered’s Seeing is Believing (SiB) Project in Zimbabwe took place on the 10th of November 2015, hosted by the bank at the Standard Chartered Bank Sports Club in Marlborough, Harare.

The Seeing is Believing Project is being implemented by Zimbabwe Council for the Blind (ZCfB), in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) and Christian Blind Mission (CBM), and aims to strengthen Zimbabwe’s Vision 2020 objectives in the north eastern part of the country.

Mr. Angeletti speaking at the SiB Launch

Mr. Angeletti speaking at the SiB Launch

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 130,000 people in Zimbabwe (1% of the population) are blind where 80% of this blindness is due to avoidable or preventable causes. These causes as articulated by the Chief Ophthalmologist and National Prevention of Blindness Committee (NPBC) Chairperson, Dr. Macheka, speaking at the launch, are cataracts (being the most common), refractive errors, eye injuries, glaucoma, paediatric cataracts and cancers.

The CBM Country Coordinator, Mr. Michele Angeletti’s remarks at the start of the launch set the tone of the event with a presentation clarifying the scope and the objectives of the project. He illuminated that the project is in support of Zimbabwe’s National Eye Health Strategy (NEHS 2014 – 2018) which provides a framework for the resuscitation of eye health services in line with the country’s aim to eradicate avoidable blindness by 2020.

The project which has a budget of $1.2 million is focused on strengthening the provision of eye health services in the north east of Zimbabwe by working with three eye units, namely; Sekuru Kaguvi Children’s  Eye Hospital a national/tertiary institution, as well as Norton Eye Hospital and Sakubva Eye Hospital both provincial/secondary institutions.

Through work with these institutions the following four objectives were articulated as the guiding principles of the project which aims to:

  1. Increase the quantity and improve the quality of eye-care services for adults and children over three years.
  2. Increase the capacity of the eye-health workforce at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
  3. Improve the infrastructure for eye-care delivery at tertiary (Sekuru Kaguvi Hospital) and secondary level (Norton and Sakubva Eye Hospitals) and,
  4. Ensure all eye-care services are inclusive.

The project will provide the targeted units with equipment and consumables; train village health workers, ophthalmic nurses, doctors and instrument technicians; refurbish and build selected operating theatres and out-patient departments; and ensure the accessibility and affordability of eye-care services. These activities are in line with, and will ensure the realisation of the aforementioned objectives.

SCB Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Ralph Watungwa and Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care in Zimbabwe, Honourable Aldrin Musiiwa

SCB Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Ralph Watungwa and Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care in Zimbabwe, Honourable Aldrin Musiiwa

Aside from the impact directed at individual beneficiaries, the program will conduct a Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) study, in Manicaland province in Zimbabwe in conjunction with the MOHCC, which is a prevalence study to determine the precise occurrence of blinding conditions in Zimbabwe. It is believed that the Manicaland Province is a reliable proxy though which to determine this prevalence in the whole country.

The SCB Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Ralph Watungwa, shared that Vision 2020, is a joint program of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), a global initiative for the elimination of preventable blindness by the year 2020.

Zimbabwe’s endorsement of this initiative makes her an ideal beneficiary of the SiB program which together with the IAPB, aims to raise $100 million by 2020 for sustainable eye care programs in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The SiB programme started in 2003 as part of the bank’s corporate social responsibility and is part of its commitment to contribute positively to the economies and communities in which it operates. To date the program has raised $75 million dollars and the CEO confirmed that the bank pledges to match every donation dollar to dollar until their 2020 target is reached.

As a partner in the project Standard Chartered Bank Zimbabwe will offer invaluable assistance through human resources; volunteering of staff members in the projects activities, advertising; through its ATM machines and various social media platforms and awareness raising through dissemination of information through its corporate partners.

The launch was instrumental not only in reporting the progress of the program thus far but, more importantly, it was a platform to share its future objectives which will impact over 1 million Zimbabweans both directly, through patient care and indirectly, through the dissemination of information on the availability of eye health services. Attended by key stakeholders and staff from the MOHCC, Standard Chartered Bank, CBM and ZCfB, the launch unearthed an unmistakable spirit of commitment and passion for the realisation of SiB’s goals by all involved.