In Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, it is thought that 200,000 people have visual impairments, and around 5,000 children in Malawi are blind because of cataracts. This condition, often thought only to affect older people, is a major cause of blindness in Malawi, across all ages. If you have cataracts, the world can look dim, blurred and distorted, as if you’re looking through a dirty glass.
With timely intervention, it is likely that many people could have been treated with a straightforward operation.
Dr. Priscilla Mhango is passionate about the difference surgery can make to someone with cataracts. Following four years of intensive training, Priscilla recently graduated as a general ophthalmologist and is now qualified to perform sight-saving surgeries.
Priscilla was inspired to pursue this training as she saw the impact that eye conditions had on members of her own family. Initially, she covered the cost with her savings but as these became depleted, she feared that she would have to return home and put her ambition on hold.
But thanks to sponsorship from Sightsavers, Priscilla was able to complete her training. This would not have been possible without incredible supporters like you.
Dr Mhango, ophthalmologist
Priscilla’s huge workload shows just how much her skills are needed. Yet currently, there are fewer than 12 trainees in Malawi, when there should be at least 70 or 80. “I think the lack of human resources is one of the reasons why we can’t reach more people,” says Priscilla. “It would be nice if maybe we got three of four trainees a year and then at least we’d have continuity.”
In addition to the limited number of staff, Priscilla is concerned about the reliance on traditional medicine in the community where she works, which can make eye conditions, such as cataracts, harder to treat. Despite these challenges, Priscilla sees that progress is being made. She explains: “When you treat a child who was bumping into things or who couldn’t go to school because of their poor vision and you see how their life improves, it’s really something.”
In 2021, Sightsavers helped to train more than 3,200 eye health workers and 500 community volunteers. And we couldn’t have done this without you.