Overcoming flies, cows and 30 km to save sight

Written by Admin, published on August 19, 2014 Donate Today
Norkitoip (background) talks to a staff member, while a community health worker translates.

Thirty kilometres may not seem like a big distance to us, but it was a huge barrier for Norkitoip, a 45-year-old Kenyan mother of eight.

Norkitoip was afflicted with trichiasis, a condition whereby repeated trachoma infections turned her eyelashes inward to rub her cornea. Although she described it as “painful and uncomfortable,” she and her husband could not afford for her to travel from her village of Erupata to reach medical help that might save her eyesight.

Instead, Norkitoip and other Maasai community members who suffered from the same condition resorted to dealing with it as best they could. That meant a painful yet temporary solution – pulling out their eyelashes with tweezers made by a local blacksmith! Worse, all 12 of the children tested in the village had active trachoma infections, ensuring that they would suffer the same fate.

Maasai tribes are vulnerable to trachoma because they often live in close proximity to their cattle, whose dung provides a perfect breeding ground for the flies that spread trachoma. The communities are also hampered by the scarcity of water for personal hygiene. Without face and hand washing, infection is spread readily.

Thanks to support from Operation Eyesight’s generous donors, Norkitoip and other village women received free transportation to Narok District Hospital for surgery to fix their in-turned eyelids. The children were given antibiotics to clear their infections.

These treatments are part of the World Health Organization-endorsed SAFE strategy, which Operation Eyesight implemented in Narok District in 2007. SAFE stands for Surgery, Antibiotics, Face-washing and Environmental change to combat trachoma.

This child is receiving tetracycline, an antibiotic, to help combat a trachoma infection. Because of the provision of clean water, this disease can be eliminated from regions like Narok District.

According to an impact assessment conducted by our staff in 2010, the SAFE strategy has been effective in reducing Narok District’s prevalence of active trachoma from 30.5 percent to 11 percent. Our kind-hearted donors make it possible to bring clean water for sanitation to villages like Erupata. Because of them, people like Norkitoip will no longer suffer this awful disease. Thank you!

You can read about our trachoma projects here.