She lives in Karfiguela village in Burkina Faso. For the past five years she has worked as a commuunity volunteer distributing medication in her local area, a job she says she loves.
“What really makes me happy in this work is that it is helping to prevent people from catching the disease,” she explains.
After being trained by Sightsavers staff, Mariam has the knowledge and the ability to protect her fellow villagers from river blindness.
This devastating disease can cause itching that’s so intense, people often scratch their skin so hard it leaves scars. If left untreated, river blindness can eventually lead to irreversible sight loss.
“We meet family members and tell them the reason why they have to take these drugs,” Mariam explains. “Then we measure them against a dose pole, and according to the colour they match, we give them the medicine.”
In many rural areas, such as Mariam’s village, contracting a disease like river blindness doesn’t just affect the patient – it can affect their whole family. Without treatment, and without health workers such as Mariam to distribute the medication, children can be forced to drop out of school to support their blind parents, meaning they miss out on an education. What’s worse is they can still be at risk of catching river blindness themselves.
“Eyesight is important because if you don’t have sight, this really will disturb your work in many ways,” Mariam tells us. “This is a serious problem that you can face.”