Sightsavers Reports

“I think I have a heart for eyes”

Ophthalmic nurse Postan, from Zambia, has gained the trust of the community where he works tirelessly to save sight.

Postan outside with a smile on his face

Postan Phiri is a popular figure in the communities he visits in rural Zambia – he’s spent a lot of time building trust and belief in his work.

As an ophthalmic nurse in the rural community of Petauke, he knows how important it is to relate to the communities he’s meeting, and to build momentum for the work he is doing. There can be a lot of fear around modern medicine and a reliance on traditional medicine, which means people may be reluctant to seek help for their eye problems. This can mean that, even if surgery is available, there is sometimes little that can be done to save someone’s sight.

Education and trust are therefore key. “I need to make them understand me, and I understand them too,” Postan explains. “Even when I’m talking to them, we’re on the same level. Then they’re going to get the message.”

Every person who has had successful eye surgery becomes an ambassador, helping to encourage others and reinforce the positive messages that Postan and others are sharing through outreach camps. Last year the team carried out almost 1,000 cataract operations in the Petauke region.

Watch the video below to hear Postan discuss his work.

Ophthalmic nurse Postan Phiri examines a child's eyes in Zambia.
One of Postan’s roles is to carry out eye examinations in the local community.

When Postan finds a child who needs surgical treatment for an eye condition, he refers them to Dr Celestin Habiyakare, a paediatric ophthalmic surgeon, so they can be operated on.

Cataracts are caused by a build-up of protein that clouds the eye’s lens: treating them involves surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens. Child cataract operations are more expensive as they require general anaesthetic and more monitoring and resources.

There are only two cataract surgeons who can perform child cataract surgery in all of Zambia. Dr Habiyakare can perform many operations in a day, yet we need more specialist surgeons like him, and more nurses like Postan.

There are still so many more people who need their help.

Your generosity could help to fund surgical training for doctors like Dr Habiyakare, help to train more nurses like Postan, and support healthcare facilities so communities can benefit from long-term, sustainable eye care.

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Dr Celestin Habiyakare checking Lovemore's eyes
Dr Habiyakare examining nine-year-old Lovemore after his cataract surgery.

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