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SIOC-Community Development Trust (SIOC-CDT), rolls out vision care project to communities in the Northern Cape.

It’s been almost a year since South Africa went into the initial hard lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19. Although most South Africans have been hyper-aware of their health over this period, eye or vision care is unlikely to feature as a priority, unless it is something one struggles with on a daily basis. With World Glaucoma Week taking place from 7 – 13 March, it’s important that we bring vision care to the forefront of conversations to spread awareness about glaucoma and other eye conditions, such as cataracts, and promote regular testing.

Worldwide, roughly 66 million people are affected with glaucoma and roughly 10% of these people become blind as a result of glaucoma. Glaucoma is also prevalent in South Africa and it is estimated that approximately 200 000 people are affected. 1

In its National Guideline to the Prevention of Blindness in South Africa, The Department of Health lists the leading causes of blindness as cataracts (66%) and glaucoma (14%). Their recent statistics indicate that the majority of provinces in South Africa do not reach their targets for cataract surgeries (the target is 2000 surgeries per million in population).2

SIOC-Community Development Trust (SIOC-CDT), which operates and provides multiple services in Northern Cape communities, has recently rolled out their comprehensive eye care project which will see patients receiving the eye care testing and treatment they require to prevent or rectify vision impairment. SIOC-CDT is proud to be funding the project by an amount just shy of R1 million.

In partnership with the Northern Cape Department of Health (NCDoH) and the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB), the project, which was initially approved in March 2020 prior to the lockdown, will consist of 160 cataract surgeries and 200 pairs of reading glasses in total for patients in need within the SIOC-CDT beneficiary communities (John Taolo Gaetsewe and Tsantsabane). The roll-out has been divided into quarterly tours of 40 cataract surgeries and the distribution of 50 pairs of glasses.

The tour aims to achieve the following goals:

  1. To raise awareness against blindness via education (causes and prevention, genetic retinal conditions, the importance of World Glaucoma Week: 7-13 March).
  2. To provide vision screening, testing and treatment for minor ailments (identifying cataracts, issuing reading glasses, escalating complicated eye conditions to the next level of care, etc.).
  3. Providing cataract surgeries to patients in need (the operations will be performed in one of the NCDoH hospitals by a qualified Ophthalmologist from member organisations through Private Partnerships as part of the existing Cataract Outreach Programme).

Each quarterly tour follows a stringent itinerary:

– Day 1: Screening of all patients at the clinic, treatment of minor ailments, booking sessions with the Ophthalmologist for those with cataracts.
– Day 2: Assessing the vitals for all patients with cataracts, obtaining consent for the upcoming surgeries, confirming hospitals where surgeries will take place and pre-surgery counselling.
– Day 3: Performing cataract surgeries. All 40 surgeries will take place on the same day and patients will be returned to the ward for recovery with an eye pad and eye shield to prevent infection and injury.
– Day 4: Providing post-operative care to all patients and advising them of their next check-up.
– Day 5: Providing post-operative care for the patients who are operated on in day 3.

The team then drives to the next hospital and starts the process again. The team works in collaboration with the hospital eye clinic staff. Where there is no eye clinic, a nurse from the district is assigned to go and assist during the tour and also to review the patients after two weeks.

Says Vusani Malie, CEO of SIOC-CDT: “This exciting project was supposed to start from 1 April 2020 and run until the end of March this year however, it was understandably put on hold due to the pandemic. Although extensive screening was conducted successfully in October 2020, the cataract surgeries were not performed out of concern for the patients’ safety in relation to Covid-19. The beds that were earmarked for recovery were being used for Covid-19 patients and many of the recipients were elderly and therefore vulnerable to contracting Covid-19 if in a hospital environment. We feel confident that we made the right decision and look forward to successfully rolling out the first tour from 11 March as part of World Glaucoma Week.”

1 South African Glaucoma Society
2 South African Medical Journal


About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition that damages the eye’s optic nerve. It gets worse over time and is often linked to a build-up of pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma tends to be hereditary and mostly develops later in life. The intraocular pressure can damage the optic nerve, which sends images to your brain. If the damage worsens, glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss or even total blindness within a few years. Most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain. It is important to monitor eye health so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before long-term vision loss starts. Lowering eye pressure can help those with glaucoma to keep the sight that still remains, even if they have started to lose their vision.

About Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. Clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or see the expression on a friend’s face. Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t disturb eyesight early on. But with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with vision. Initially, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can assist in dealing with cataracts, but if the impaired vision interferes with one’s usual activities, cataract surgery may be required. Fortunately, cataract surgery is generally a safe, effective procedure.


SIOC Community Development Trust (SIOC-CDT) was established in 2006 by Sishen Iron Ore Company (SIOC) (Pty) Ltd to invest in the uplifting of the communities in which the mining company operates in the Northern Cape and Limpopo. We invest significantly in community development projects aimed at ensuring sustainability beyond mining operations.

SIOC-CDT has substantiated its stated intention of “defining ourselves through actions, not our words” by investing over R1 billion in socio-economic and community development projects in its beneficiary communities; Gamagara, Tsantsabane, Ga-Segonyana and Joe Morolong in the Northern Cape, as well as Thabazimbi in Limpopo.