Sightsavers Reports

“I love the fact that my work helps to provide eye care for all”

Mercia celebrates with a trachoma surgery patient after her bandages have been removed.

Mercia Cumaio, from Mozambique, has worked at Sightsavers for nine years. She’s particularly dedicated to eliminating trachoma, and is a keen advocate for the importance of eye health.

Mercia is currently the programme manager for eye care projects in the Nampula region in northeastern Mozambique. The area has a population of about six million people, many of whom live in rural areas that are hard to reach by road.

In these areas, it can be challenging for residents to get help for eye problems. Yet these remote communities are home to almost 70 per cent of the people who need treatment for trachoma.

A car drives through very rough terrain to access remote villages in Nampula, Mozambique.

When Mercia first started working in Nampula, trachoma was a big problem. “There were no operations being provided to treat people with advanced trachoma – fewer than 10 patients had surgery each year,” she says. But thanks to The Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative, the situation has changed dramatically.

“The prevalence of trachoma has fallen in three districts, and more than 1,500 people have been treated,” she explains. “It makes me really proud to know that we have worked hard and have reached many patients that would have not been treated through the normal eye health system.

“Eliminating trachoma is essential: if it’s not treated in time, the disease can cause irreversible blindness. This causes patients in the community to become isolated, leading them into a cycle of poverty. Eliminating trachoma will ultimately improve people’s quality of life. The programme has change the way community members think about eye care and has made sure more people seek help for eye issues.

“My favourite part of my work is seeing patients’ joy following sight-saving surgery when they have their bandages removed.”

“My favourite part of my work is seeing patients’ joy after sight-saving surgery”

Maria with a trachoma patient after her bandages are removed.
Mercia with trachoma patient Maria after surgery: she was able to see for the first time in years after her bandages were removed.

So what inspired Mercia to work in eye health? She recounts a story from when she was a teenager, when she witnessed the discrimination faced by people with visual impairments. “The situation made me realise how people who are blind can be treated so harshly by society. It  made me want to pursue a career where my work could make a positive difference in people’s lives.”

Mercia continues to be a strong advocate for access to quality eye care services in Nampula. Her goal is to make sure no one has to go needlessly blind, and that eye health is a priority.

“I love the fact that my work helps to provide eye care for everyone: women, people with disabilities and other marginalised group. All of this contributes to the fight against poverty, and a brighter future for everyone.”

Trachoma patient Maria Fonte gives Mercia a hug after the bandages are removed from her eyes following sight-saving surgery.

“All of our work, everything we do, is worth it when we see people smile!”

Trachoma patient Maria Fonte gives Mercia a hug after the bandages are removed from her eyes following sight-saving surgery.

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