Restoring eyesight in Ethiopia: Elemtu’s story
Avoidable blindness is a major issue in Ethiopia, including blindness caused by cataracts and a widespread eye infection called trachoma. It is a particular problem in remote rural areas where there is a lot of poverty and the healthcare system is not as accessible. Along with our partner, HelpAge International Ethiopia, we have been working to help strengthen the health system and provide eyecare outreach to older people.
Elemtu, 75, is just one of the older people we were able to reach with treatment, showing that a simple procedure can change an older person’s life.
Elemtu lives in Megada Village in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. She has 12 children and currently lives with one of her sons and his four children. She used to work on a farm and help her son with housework but three years ago she started suffering from headaches and dizziness, telling her family that her sight was becoming blurry.
One day everything went dark and Elemtu could no longer see. She lost her independence and relied on her grandchildren for everything, including going to the toilet.
“Gradually, my life became harder and harder. I felt very sad and there was nothing I nor anyone else could do to change that.
“I enjoy living with the grandchildren of mine. We laugh together and play. They keep me happy and help me forget the pain. I understand it must be difficult for my grandchildren. They need so many things like food, clothing and schooling. It is surely not easy, especially with me also being a burden and not helping as a result of my blindness.”
Elemtu’s village leader told her family about our eye care outreach campaign at Bule Hora hospital and she had hope.
Elemtu’s son took her to the Bule Hora health facility, where she was screened and diagnosed with cataracts. She then received an operation to remove her cataracts. Afterwards the doctor put patches on her eyes and told her to come back the next day.
When she returned the next day, Elemtu was so excited about regaining her vision particularly because she could hear the joy of others around her who had had their vision restored successfully. When it was her turn, the doctor removed the patch from her eyes.
“I was delightedly rejoiced when I regained my sight. I can see. I cannot believe this was ever possible. Now, I can once again go to the farm and help my son and grandchildren. I am overjoyed. I can see.”
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