For 20-year-old Abrehet Nuguse, a mother of two who lives in Enderta district in northern Ethiopia, visiting her local hospital was a big step.
For two years, Abrehet had been living with pain in her eyes every time she blinked. The responsibilities that come with being a mother, as well as supporting her husband while he works on the farm, made it almost impossible for her to visit the local hospital, despite it being only 15km from her village. “There is no one to take care of my boys and my house. I also have to support my husband on the farm,” she explains.
Eventually the pain became unbearable and she feared she might lose her sight. A health worker in her village told her she should seek help at the hospital, so she decided to make the journey, taking one of her sons with her. She was examined by a nurse, who told her she had advanced trachoma, an infectious eye disease that causes eyelashes to grow inwards and rub against the eye.
“I decided to come because the pain started to affect my very reason for not coming, which is taking care of my boys,” Abrehet explained. She needed a minor operation, but was worried that surgery would be painful. The nurse reassured her and explained that trachoma can cause blindness if left untreated.
“I am sure about one thing – I avoided going blind. I am very happy.”
Abrehet agreed to surgery and, the day after her operation, was eager to have the eye patch removed. She was delighted with the result: she says it is liberating not to feel pain every time she blinks, and she needn’t worry about one day going blind.
Abrehet’s treatment was funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) as part of a five-year trachoma control programme managed by Sightsavers on behalf of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control.
“Now I can focus on my children and helping my husband on the farm,” says Abrehet, smiling. “I am sure about one thing – I avoided going blind. I am very happy.”
To find out the challenges of teaching children, particularly those with disabilities, during health crises we spoke with Abdul Kandeh Turay, a teacher in Rokulan, Sierra Leone.