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To you and me, the importance of keeping our hands and faces clean is a no-brainer. But for some people who live in rural communities across Africa, these daily tasks are a luxury.

And without clean water or the knowledge behind why hygiene is so important, people in rural villages are far more at risk of contracting vicious diseases such as trichiasis – an advanced form of trachoma.

This is exactly what happened to 61-year-old Biteye, from Senegal. She told us: “I used to live in a region with no hygiene, so that is why I caught the infection. Now, from messages and conversations I hear, I understand that hygiene is very important for health.”

Trachoma is an extremely painful bacterial infection that, if left untreated, develops into trichiasis. This is where your eyelashes turn inwards and slowly scrape and blister your eyes, and can eventually cause irreversible blindness.

Biteye was a melon farmer before she contracted trachoma, but after suffering repeat infections for 15 years, she was no longer able to earn a living.

What made it worse for Biteye was knowing about the cure. “My mother also had the same problem,” she said. “She had the operation and was better, but I couldn’t afford it.”

But thanks to donations from supporters like you, a Sightsavers co-ordinated project was able to change Biteye’s future:

“I heard on the radio that I was able to have the operation free of charge. At that point I had suffered so much, I feared nothing. I just wanted the pain to end.”

Three months on from Biteye’s trichiasis surgery and she has regained her sight. She has returned to work and is an active member of her community once again. “I feel so much better now. One of the most wonderful things is being able to go to family ceremonies and gatherings and see all of my family clearly. It is so joyful to be able to see the young children playing,” she explains happily.

Since 2001, Sightsavers has supported more than 65 million Zithromax® antibiotic treatments to cure and prevent trachoma – that’s roughly the same as the number of people living in the UK. We’ve also performed more than 270,640 trichiasis surgeries, but there are still millions of people globally who need your help.

Will you donate today to help eliminate this horrific disease?

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Rahel Kasaw after her trachoma operation in Ethiopia.

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