Amarech after surgery
Sight Saving Surgery - Amarech Monje
During a recent visit to Bonke Woreda in the Gamu Gofa region of southern Ethiopia, I met Amarech Monje. Amarech is 45 years old and lives in Zaga, a remote village in the mountains. She works as a farmer and shares her very modest home with her six children; three boys and three girls, her husband and her sister.
Amarech has been suffering with trachoma tears and discomfort for around three years. Trachoma is highly contagious and with nine people living in a very small space, the chances of the infection spreading amongst the family are very high. Her eldest child, who is aged around 10, has trachoma and Amarech has been using the ointment that the health centre had given him to treat herself. However, this only caused the pain to go away temporarily.
The day of our visit to the health centre in Geresse was Amarech’s first time there. Geresse is 5km away from the village of Zaga where Amarech lives. Amarech had made the journey to Geresse on her own and on foot. She came as she was aware that she could get the treatment she needed. Her husband and sister had had successful surgery at Geresse Health Centre. Amarech was diagnosed with trichiasis, the advanced form of trachoma where the eyelids turn inwards and scratch the cornea, causing scarring, immense pain and eventual blindness if left untreated. After consultation with the local health workers, Amarech had surgery on her left eye. The surgery was performed by Sando Shangne, an ORBIS trained local health nurse, who is trained to perform this one simple sight-saving surgery. After twenty minutes the surgery was complete, Amarech was given some antibiotic cream, instructed to return to the health clinic in two weeks and she then embarked on the 5km walk home alone.
Trachoma is a major cause of blindness in the world, found primarily in rural settings, like Zaga. Due to cramped and basic living conditions, mothers and their children are most susceptible to the infection. If Amarech had not received treatment for her trichiasis, it is highly likely that she would have become blind. This would have had disastrous consequences for her family as she would no longer have been able to work on the farm; causing a number of her children, most likely the girls, to drop out of school to work on the farm, look after their mother and look after the household. This would have only served to reinforce the cycle of poverty in which they live.
ORBIS is committed to eliminating trachoma in this very poor region. This is done by providing corrective surgery, distributing zithromax (an antibiotic kindly donated by Pfizer), providing education on the importance of personal hygiene and improving sanitation by providing clean water and building latrines. With your support we can continue to work towards completely transforming this region and ensuring people like Amarech and her family are given every opportunity to emerge from the cycle of poverty in which they have lived for too long.