Sightsavers Reports

“If we can stop trachoma, children will have a better future”

October 2018
A man smiles, wearing a yellow Sightsavers tshirt.

It’s difficult not to smile when talking to Givemore Mafukidze. His positive attitude instantly puts people at ease, which makes him a natural at his job.

“I’ve been working as an ophthalmic nurse now for about 10 years,” he tells us. “I’d had a passion for saving people’s lives, then I developed an interest in eye health because I had family members who had eye problems. But I couldn’t figure out what the problem really was, so I had to venture into eye health.”

We follow Givemore across Mbire, a rural district in northern Zimbabwe, where he carries out eye health screenings to check for trachoma in local communities. The area has little infrastructure: the dirt roads are bumpy, and there’s a shortage of medicine and supplies in the few small health clinics, making it difficult for locals to get the healthcare they need.

Screening children for trachoma

Each day Givemore visits villages dotted around the district. Most don’t have access to clean water, and this lack of sanitation means the infection spreads more easily between people.

Although villagers welcome our arrival, children often shy away, crying in anticipation of having their eyes examined. Parents have to encourage their children to let Givemore examine them, but immediately afterwards the children relax. Most wander around his feet, intrigued to see what he’s going to do next.

We joke that he’s an expert in making children cry, to which he responds with a hearty laugh. He knows it’s part of the job. “For a child with trachoma, if the condition goes untreated, you know that at some point in time they may end up blind,” he explains. “So when someone goes blind, it’s a burden to the family, to the community, to the nation.

“It makes me very happy to see a child with trachoma being treated because I know the impact it will have on the child’s life, wellbeing and welfare. I will be certain that this child is likely to have a better future.”

At a quick lunchtime stop at a local health clinic in Mbire, we ask Givemore to tell us about his role and the impact the disease can have on the lives of not only children, but adults too. Watch the video below to hear what he has to say.

Treating remote communities

During his outreach visits, Givemore is always careful to make sure everyone has been screened – even the young children who wriggle away and hide behind their friends. He jokingly points at the hiders and beckons them over with a smile and a relaxed attitude.

Travelling between screenings, we stop suddenly on a dirt road: before we know it, Givemore has jumped out of the car and is making his way over to a small group of villagers standing in the bushes. The spontaneous roadside screening is worth it: his quick work identifies more people with trachoma, who are able to receive treatment immediately.

We ask him if he thinks trachoma will be eliminated in Zimbabwe soon. “With more programmes like this, I’m sure it will,” he says. “I’m very happy that Sightsavers is supporting trachoma. We are blessed to have them with us because they are helping us a lot in the elimination of trachoma.”

A man examining a child's eyes. with a que behind.

“Restoring or improving a person’s sight is the best part of this job.”

A man examining a child's eyes. with a que behind.

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