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Sightsavers from the field

“Eliminating trachoma will make this world a better place”

July 2018
A group of boys from Yendhi district in Ghana smile for the camera.

“Trachoma elimination in Ghana is the greatest thing that has happened to me since I joined Sightsavers,” says Ghana programme manager David Agyemang.

David has overseen our work in Ghana for the past four years. In July 2018 he was able to witness a historic milestone when the country became the first nation in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate trachoma – the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness. This was three years after the country was declared free of Guinea worm disease by the World Health Organization.

“I count myself very lucky for being part of the success stories of both Guinea worm eradication and trachoma elimination in Ghana,” he explains. “When I compare the incapacitation and debilitation that affected people at the beginning to the current improvement in their health and quality of life,  my heart overflows with joy. All the energy, resources and time that were committed to fighting these disease become very worthwhile.

“A few days before trachoma elimination was announced, I was carrying out some interviews in one of the formerly endemic communities. A woman hurried to me, beaming with smiles. ‘Don’t you remember me?’ she asked. I looked at her again and recognised her: it was Zeinab Abukari, one of the patients that was operated on in 2017 in the Yendi district. How beautiful and healthy she had become; no wonder I did not recognise her at first.

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Zeinab Abukari smiles following her successful trachoma surgery.

“Zeinab was so grateful, and went on to tell me how the surgery had improved her life.”

Zeinab Abukari smiles following her successful trachoma surgery.

“We should never relent in our commitment to eliminate these diseases”

“Zeinab did not feel pain any more. She could take care of her grandchildren and attend social gatherings, including funerals and worship at the mosque. Before the surgery, she was constantly in pain and could not do any of the things that meant so much to her.

“Her story reminded me how important the elimination of the disease was. Her return to happiness and productivity shows why we should never relent in our commitment to eliminate these diseases everywhere in the world. The challenges affect everyone, not just people like Zeinab Abukari.  The happiness and the productivity of this world is incomplete without theirs.

“I feel more motivated now than ever to do my part in this global elimination struggle, which has the potential to contribute immensely to making this world a better place.”

Author


PDavid AgyemangDavid Agyemang
David is Sightsavers’ programme manager in Ghana. He has worked for the organisation since 2014.

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