Saving little eyes for a brighter future
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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.

In partnership with the Zambia Ministry of Health, we travelled to over a dozen of the small islands of Lake Kariba to distribute antibiotics to the children living there. Their parents, most of whom are fishermen, also received antibiotics.
Patson Tembo, our Country Manager of Zambia, explained that when our team reached the islands, the children’s faces lit up with excitement! They were all eager to take the antibiotics, some of them shouting and pushing their way through the crowd.
Thirteen-year-old Tom was very keen on taking the antibiotics. He lives on one of the larger islands where the nearly 400 residents drink water from the lake. We recommended to the Ministry of Health that they distribute chlorine so residents can purify their drinking water.
The children living on the islands are at a higher risk for trachoma, as well as other serious illnesses like cholera and malaria. If someone on the island requires medical attention, the immediate family members have to work with the island chairman to organize a canoe to take the person to the mainland for treatment. We’ve encouraged the Ministry of Health to organize periodic clinics on these islands so they can treat those who are sick and help prevent the spread of disease.
The children living on the islands are at a higher risk for trachoma, as well as other serious illnesses like cholera and malaria. If someone on the island requires medical attention, the immediate family members have to work with the island chairman to organize a canoe to take the person to the mainland for treatment. We’ve encouraged the Ministry of Health to organize periodic clinics on these islands so they can treat those who are sick and help prevent the spread of disease.
These twin brothers, who live on Zebra Island, received the antibiotics along with their friends. The other islands included in our Mass Drug Administration, ranging in population from 40 to 400, were: Kubale, Kamabwe, Kamuchenga, Sodom, Kapiri Kanzovu, Chabala Sepa, Nkolwe, Cheembe Trainees and Square islands. By supporting the distribution of antibiotics on these islands, our donors have saved hundreds of people from going blind to trachoma. Thank you!
These twin brothers, who live on Zebra Island, received the antibiotics along with their friends. The other islands included in our Mass Drug Administration, ranging in population from 40 to 400, were: Kubale, Kamabwe, Kamuchenga, Sodom, Kapiri Kanzovu, Chabala Sepa, Nkolwe, Cheembe, Trainees and Square islands. By supporting the distribution of antibiotics on these islands, our donors have saved hundreds of people from going blind to trachoma. Thank you!

 

Together with our donors, we truly are reaching the unreached. Thank you for your incredible support!