Eye Health

Updated 14 March 2018

Eye health documentaries launched to combat blindness in Zambia

In honour of World Sight Day in October, a non-profit organisation has launched two new documentary films in Zambia to help to reduce avoidable blindness.

On 8 October 2015, World Sight Day, a non-profit organisation called Orbis Africa launched Zambia’s first documentary films on eye health as its latest innovative tool to reduce preventable and treatable blindness and visual impairment on the continent. 

One of the two short documentary films, Mbunjo Mumeso (Clouds in My Eyes), was screened at the World Sight Day celebration in the Kasempa district. Delegates including government officials, partners and funders attended the film screening and World Sight Day festivities. Patients and eye healthcare professionals featured in the documentaries were delighted to see themselves on the big screen for the very first time. 

Read: Cataracts the main cause of blindness in SA kids

A research study by acclaimed South African anthropologist Dr Susan Levine was the catalyst for Orbis Africa’s decision to harness the power of film to drive its prevention and treatment models for avoidable childhood blindness on the African continent. Levine’s study, the first of its kind in Africa, identified several factors as barriers that prevent caregivers from taking their children for evaluation and management of their eye problems. Many of these barriers are also applicable to adults who are experiencing problems with their vision. 

"Overcoming these barriers requires innovative communication methods, hence Orbis Africa’s decision to harness the power of film,” explains Helen White, Orbis Africa Director of Communications. “Facilitated Film Screenings have proven to be an effective communications tool for achieving lasting social change.”

Standard Chartered Bank Zambia CEO, Andrew Okai, said, “Standard Chartered Bank is proud to partner with Orbis on our Seeing is Believing preventative blindness initiative. These new documentary films are an innovative and powerful tool to raise awareness and educate our communities that certain blindness can be prevented through early detection and interventions. Mbunjo Mumeso is particularly inspiring in that it features a community member’s success story.” 

Mr. Okai added, “Standard Chartered Bank has invested USD2m into Seeing is Believing in Zambia over the period 2009 – 2017. At global level, Seeing is Believing has 100 projects in 28 countries where the Bank has a presence. We have reached 100 million people globally through medical intervention, eye examination, training health workers and health education.” 

Mbunjo Mumeso, filmed in Zambia’s North-Western Province, follows committed Ophthalmic Nurse Duncan Chimbila as he works in the community to save sight and reduce avoidable and treatable blindness and visual impairment. In the film, we meet a group of elderly Zambians from the North-Western Province as they journey from a life of visual impairment from cataract, to regaining their sight through a simple surgical procedure. Their delay in seeking appropriate medical treatment was due to a range of obstacles including fear, ignorance, misconceptions and socio-economic limitations. The film encourages the viewer to seek treatment immediately if they notice any change to their vision. 

duncan saves sight in zambia

Ophthalmic Nurse, Duncan Chimbila's passion is to prevent avoidable blindness and visual impairment in Zambian communities. (Orbis)

Read: How smartphones are revolutionising eye care in Africa

The second film, Amakumbi Yabuta (The Clouds Have Cleared), was filmed in the Copperbelt Province and features eleven-year-old David who regained his childhood through sight-saving surgery.

Orbis Africa partnered with STEPS (Social Transformation and Empowerment Projects) who pioneered the facilitated film screening methodology. STEPS, a special collaboration between filmmakers from Southern Africa and European broadcasters, produced the two documentaries with the aim to initiate social change and pioneer awareness of eye disease in Zambia. The STEPS facilitated screening model combines film with facilitation as a powerful tool to promote debate and discussion and bring about enlightened social change. STEPS film screenings are always contextualised with personal testimonies and are followed by a discussion where facilitators encourage the audience to decide on individual and group action as a way forward. Actions can include challenging stigma and discrimination, the decision to seek services, or to advocate for access to high quality equitable eye health services. 

sight-restoring surgeries in Zambia

Three Zambian men recovering from sight-saving cataract surgery (Orbis)

Orbis Africa has worked in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia since 2011 before implementing programmes in the North-Western province in 2012. The Comprehensive Child Eye Health Programme in Copperbelt Province has established a Child Eye Health Tertiary Facility at Kitwe Central Hospital and is working to develop community awareness, outreach and follow-up programmes in the catchment area. The Saving Sight, Changing Lives project funded by Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing Initiative aims to reduce avoidable blindness by strengthening comprehensive eye care services in the North-Western Province. 

A group of trainees including Ophthalmic Nurses, Ophthalmic Clinical Officers,Community Healthcare Workers and other primary healthcare professionals will be trained as facilitators for the film screenings.They will be equipped to take the film into their communities to bring about social change and awareness around eye health. 

Read more:

When darkness descends: Cape woman opens up about going blind

Blind Capetonians get smartphone savvy

Could stem cells hold the key to fixing genes responsible for blindness?


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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