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Sightsavers Reports

Yaya can lead his community again

June 2018
A male trachoma patient sitting outside, smiling.

Yaya Manneh is a 75-year-old community leader from Mariama Kunda village in The Gambia.

Four years ago he caught trachoma, a painful neglected tropical disease that can cause permanent blindness if not treated quickly. Here is his story.

Yaya with children in the village

“It was so painful even to blink”

“More than 2,500 people live in Mariama Kunda and there are 11 different tribes. My role as the head of the village is to ensure the community remains together and that disputes are settled between us.

Around four years ago, I noticed pain and itching in my eyes. When it didn’t go away, I began to worry. Eventually the pain was constant and I couldn’t continue my daily activities. When you are leading people, you must go out to visit them. But when I got trachoma I couldn’t do anything. I just sat in the compound.

I didn’t know what was wrong until a health worker told me I might have trachoma. Before I knew what it was or how to treat it, we used to use a small pipe to blow smoke in people’s eyes to try to get rid of it.

As a leader, a family head, if you have this disease you cannot work, and this affects your family. You don’t earn a living, and you have to rely on other people.”

A male trachoma patient sitting outside, smiling.

“I kept praying that I would receive help”

“I was in pain for a long time because I didn’t know anywhere close to me where I could have surgery. It’s difficult to live with the misery of trachoma. I believed it was a condition brought by God that I must accept, but I kept praying that I would receive medical help and then, one day, I did.

Someone arrived at the local health centre who could do surgery to treat trachoma. After living with trachoma for three years, I had the surgery eight months ago.

I was very happy. It didn’t take long and the health worker explained what would happen – they gave me something so I wouldn’t feel pain and then Lamin, an ophthalmic nurse, stitched my eye.”

Sightsavers has been working with partner organisations to eliminate trachoma in The Gambia.

Our work in The Gambia

“Lamin and other health workers checked on me often following the surgery. I see very well now and even have glasses that were given to me by the health centre. Since having surgery, I can work on the farm and participate in the community as an elder, like I used to. People say they are happy to see me back. The eye programme has benefited the entire village, I’m able to refer anybody with eye problems to the health centre and people now know about the treatment, which is very good.

Fewer people complain of trachoma in the village these days as many people have had their eyes checked, operated on, and have been given medication, which makes me very happy.”

Yaya Manneh walking through his village.

“Since having surgery, I can work on the farm and participate in the community as an elder, like I used to. People say they are happy to see me back.”

Yaya Manneh walking through his village.

Find out more about our work to save sight

Sightsavers and eye health

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