Standard Chartered eye programme to benefit 100 000

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Over 100 000 people are set to benefit from Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing (SiB) $1 million programme which was launched in Harare yesterday and is aimed at improving eye health among both children and adults.

By Phyllis Mbanje

The three-year programme will be done in conjunction with Christian Blind Mission (CBM), Council for the Blind and the Health ministry.

The programme will fund projects aligned to the government’s national eye care plans and will fill in the gaps in the country’s existing eye care provision.

Speaking during the launch of SiB yesterday, CBM country representative Michele Angeletti said the project — which has a total budget of $1,2m — would be focused on improving eye services at Sekuru Kaguvi Hospital children’s eye unit, Norton and Sakubva hospitals eye units.

“We want more people to access services by providing equipment and consumables to hospitals,” he said.

Through the initiative, charges for eye surgeries will be drastically cut to ensure that many people get treated.

“Affordability was a challenge and patients were being charged between $100 and $400, but we negotiated for between $40 and $70,” Debra Tigere, also from CBM, said.

There has been no study in Zimbabwe to estimate the magnitude of blindness. The World Health Organisation estimates which correspond to studies conducted in Botswana and Malawi including in Mashonaland West and Manicaland put blindness at 1%, of which 0,5% is due to cataract.

SEEING IS BELEIVING LAUNCH PIC

Prevalence of blindness is, therefore, estimated at 125 000 (1% of the population) and 80% is avoidable and treatable.

“Standard Chartered’s decision to make this investment reinforces the bank’s commitment to contribute positively to the economies and communities where it operates, a key part of the bank’s ‘Here for good’ brand promise,” Standard Chartered chief executive officer Ralph Watungwa said.

He said they were proud to be contributing to the Zimbabwe National Eye Health Strategy 2014-2018, which provides a framework for the resuscitation of eye health services.

“This puts Zimbabwe on track to achieve her Vision 2020 objectives through this Seeing is Believing project.”

SiB is a global initiative to tackle avoidable blindness, and is a collaboration between Standard Chartered and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.

To date, SiB has raised over $75m for blindness initiatives and plans to raise a further $25m by 2020.

As part of the SiB programme, Standard Chartered pledges to match all donations until the target of $100m is reached.