With only two resident ophthalmologists in a country of over 1.3 million people, SEE’s programs, and others like it, are absolutely critical in Eswatini. These two ophthalmologists provide the only access to essential eye care for individuals living with preventable blindness and visual impairments in Eswatini.
In 2016, SEE established a partnership with the Luke Commission in Sidvokodvo, focusing on restoring the sight of people suffering from cataracts, pterygium, and glaucoma. Each year, SEE teams host programs that treat more than 100 people in need each year. Since 2017, SEE has been responsible for restoring sight to over 750 individuals in the country.
Most of the people in Eswatini live in the countryside and rely on agriculture for their livelihood. For those living in remote communities, it is a challenge to find and travel to an eye care clinic, so many will often go without critical treatment. Additionally, without education regarding the modern treatments that are available to them, they abstain from seeking life-changing surgeries like cataract removal.
According to UNICEF, Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV in the world. This epidemic has left many children without their parents, making them reliant on their grandparents for care and support. Our work to eradicate preventable blindness for this older generation of caregivers is not only has a profound effect on their own quality of life but on the lives of their grandchildren as well.
With almost half of all disabilities in Eswatini being related to blindness or a visual impairment, the government has recently made great efforts to make healthcare more accessible. From introducing braille education into colleges so people can continue their education, to creating a braille telephone directory so everyone has the opportunity to connect by phone, these actions are helping to change society.