River blindness starts with a bite from a fly.
Abena still remembers her village before the flies came, when the river was a source of life and support for the community. She can’t forget what happened when she was bitten by a fly. “When you scratch, it gets swollen. You have issues with the skin, you have problems.”
She had been infected with microscopic worms, which started to reproduce rapidly and spread throughout her body. Eventually, they reached Abena’s eyes, destroying her sight.
I miss everything I was able to see. I hold my grandchildren, but I have never seen their faces.
Abena is determined to be as independent as she can. But there are things she can no longer do by herself, from growing her own food to collecting her own water. This leaves her reliant on her daughter Effia.
To help look after Abena, Effia missed out on much of her childhood. Now she walks miles every day to help her mother, all while caring for her own young family.
Through all the challenges caused by river blindness, Abena and Effia have the hope of a future without this horrific disease.
Fortunately, there’s a treatment that breaks the cycle of river blindness. One dose of tablets can stop the worms reproducing in a person’s body before they cause skin problems and blindness. This, in turn, helps stop the infection from being picked up by flies and spread from person to person in a continuing cycle.
However, challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic have affected Sightsavers’ local programmes to combat the disease, giving river blindness time to spread. Right now, millions of families are again vulnerable to infection.
Abena knows first-hand how devastating river blindness can be and, without medication, her whole family is again at risk from this cruel disease.
Will you give a gift and help distribute treatment to protect families at risk?