Reaching more children in Zambia
It’s been 6 years since we built the Chinsali vision centre in Zambia and we’ve helped to screen 26,293 people to so far, and reached a record number of children in 2022.
Building the centre was a huge achievement to start with, but the ambition was to provide a destination that would serve a community for years to come. Offering sustainable, and life-long health care for those living within Chinsali’s 6,200km² bounds.
Yep, you heard that right, the Chinsali district is a whopping 4 times the size of London. This means people have to travel far and wide to have their eyes tested. And in a country where there are primary cultural and financial barriers to accessing eye care – adding a potential 16 hour round trip into the mix is hardly motivating.
The number of children being screened at the eye hospital has been about a third of the volume of men or women. Long bus rides mean time out of school for the child and time out work for their guardian which isn’t always feasible… especially if it turns out their eyesight is healthy.
Chipo (lead optometrist) and his team got to work on a new initiative to help identify children that genuinely needed further examination. They packed their bags and hit the road, setting out to schools around the district to train teachers in how to carry out a ‘Visual Acuity Test’.
This enabled teachers to carry out initial testing of how well pupils can see. If their vision was deemed poor by optometrists’ standards, children are referred to the hospital for a comprehensive screening.
As a result of this initiative, 7,293 children were screened in 2022 versus 563 the previous year. As if it could get better than that – over 700 pupils were dispensed with spectacles following a diagnosis – which might not have been made without the teacher training.
This impact isn’t something we could have foreseen when funding the vision centre back in 2017 but it’s incredible to see how it grows.
For now, we know that last year alone more than 700 students have been able to go back to school and see the blackboard clearly, to be able to read books with ease and to enjoy time with their friends assured of their surroundings.
Good eyesight gives children safety, education and the tools to have a happy, healthy future.
We’re on a mission to replicate this success in the northern province of Sierra Leone. You can learn more about that here.
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