The bacterial infection affects 6.3 million people in Nigeria (three per cent of the population) and 137 million worldwide. If caught early enough, trachoma can be treated with antibiotics, but if it progresses, it can – very painfully – turn the eyelashes inwards, scraping the eye and causing scarring. This advanced condition is called trachomatous trichiasis (TT). Once trichiasis sets in, surgery is the only solution to correct the eyelashes before the damage becomes permanent.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kabir spent a day travelling on his motorbike between health facilities in Katsina state in the north of the country, where he himself grew up. There, he set about removing stitches from those who had recently received surgery for trichiasis.