It’s estimated that more than 160,000 people in Malawi have impaired vision, with 50 per cent caused by cataracts. In 2016 Sightsavers examined 108,000 people to check for eye conditions and enable them to be treated.
Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries: 85 per cent of the population lives self-sufficiently in rural communities that are difficult to access and far from the country’s few eye health centres. There are an estimated 8.2 million people living in areas where trachoma is endemic, and more than 12,500 people have trichiasis, the advanced stage of trachoma that can lead to blindness.
Sightsavers is working to eliminate trachoma and provides vital funding for outreach to isolated communities, enabling health workers to travel to the homes of people who otherwise would not have the means to seek help themselves. Recent surveys carried out in a number of districts show the country is now on track to eliminate the disease by 2019.
Bright joined Sightsavers more than 10 years ago. He says: “Our work has a positive impact on the lives of many vulnerable community members, especially women. I enjoy seeing people smiling after we’ve helped them.”
Sightsavers manages the Coordinated Approach To Eye Health (CATCH) project in Malawi, which aims to improve treatment for people who live in areas where trachoma is present.
Sightsavers coordinates its trachoma outreach camps with other eye care services, meaning people that arrive at the camps with eye problems other than trachoma, such as cataracts, can be referred for treatment elsewhere. The CATCH programme also aims to improve local health systems to ensure patients are able to receive a high standard of eye care in the future.