Malawi is a landlocked country in central Africa with a population of 16 million people; 50% are under the age of 16, 53% live below the poverty line, and 50,000 are blind, many of whom are children.
Each year, approximately 120 to 180 children in Malawi are either born with congenital cataract or develop cataract at a very young age. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find and treat victims of childhood blindness because children cannot speak for themselves and many parents are unaware of how to look for the condition.
Seva began supporting Malawi in 2009 through the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in the capital city, Blantyre. As part of an expanding network of pediatric programs, the goal was to treat blindness and provide low vision devices and training for children whose sight cannot be fully restored.
Seva-funded facilities provide childhood eye care services to the community through various activities, including: training community volunteers and health workers to identify children with visual impairment, implementing radio promotion for health education, providing screening and referral services for the children identified for surgery, and providing refraction and low vision services.
The positive effect of sight restoration surgery for children is felt for generations as each operation prevents an average of 50 years spent in blindness. In addition, families no longer face the economic, social and emotional burden of caring for a blind person.
Beyond childhood eye care services, Seva is also funding two Community Eye Centres in Malawi in collaboration with Dr. Gerald Msukwa and Dr. Khumbo Kalua. Located in areas with no eye care service, these primary eye care facilities have proven very successful in providing high quality eye care to thousands of people within months of opening.