What if the only way you could access eye care was to travel by a dugout canoe through crocodile-infested waters?
Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection and a leading cause of blindness in countries like Zambia. In the Sinazongwe district, about 300 km from the capital city of Lusaka, the prevalence of blinding trachoma is above the 10 percent threshold indicated by the World Health Organization.
People living on the small islands in Lake Kariba are at even greater risk. Sadly, there are no schools or health facilities on these islands, and the only way for residents to reach the mainland is to paddle across the lake in their canoes – braving the hungry crocodiles all the way!
Isolated with no access to health care or eye care, the children living on the islands are extremely vulnerable to sight-stealing trachoma.
Infection often begins during infancy and can become chronic. Left untreated, the eyelid eventually turns inward, causing the eyelashes to rub the eyeball, resulting in intense pain and scarring of the cornea.
By the time the person is in their thirties, they may become completely blind – and vision loss from trachoma cannot be reversed. This is why it’s so important to eliminate infection in children!
We’ve been fighting this devastating eye disease in Sinazongwe for more than five years. In fact, we’re the only INGO in all of Zambia implementing the full SAFE strategy to eliminate trachoma. SAFE stands for Surgery, Antibiotics, Face washing and hygiene education, and Environmental improvement.
Earlier this year, we implemented the “A” step by conducting a Mass Drug Administration of antibiotics to treat and prevent the spread of infection. Distributing the antibiotics to children was our top priority!
In most cases, the best way to reach children is to go to their schools, which is why we partnered with the Zambia Ministry of Health and a pharmaceutical company to distribute antibiotics to all of the schools in Sinazongwe. However, there were still hundreds of children in the district who needed our help: the children living on the many islands of Lake Kariba.
But thanks to our donors, we’re able to reach the unreached – even if that means reaching children by boat! Read on to learn how we’re protecting the eyes of Zambia’s little ones and, ultimately, investing in the country’s future.
Together with our donors, we truly are reaching the unreached. Thank you for your incredible support!