In Photos: Changing lives in Cameroon – Mariya

We recently returned from a trip to Cameroon to learn how Orbis is transforming lives of people with avoidable blindness. There, we met a handful of the 150,000 people who have lost their sight in the country. Cameroon has the fifth highest prevalence of blindness in the world and so much of this is avoidable.

Now, we’re back to share a few of the inspiring stories of people whose lives have been transformed thanks to the generous support of our donors.

Mariya's Story

This time, we met three-year-old Mariya. Even though she is so young, her eye was clearly causing her problems. She was in a lot of discomfort and always scratching her eye as it was so itchy. Now, life couldn’t be more different for her. She’s laughing, climbing on furniture and thriving at her new primary school – it’s hard to believe she ever had difficulties with her vision.

When Mariya’s worried mother noticed a white spot in her left eye, a visit to hospital in Yaoundé, Cameroon, confirmed she had a cataract and required further treatment at Magrabi Hospital – an Orbis-supported institution. There, Mariya's mother Juliene was told her cataract was quite a complicated one and required the expertise of more experienced surgeons. They were then told that the Flying Eye Hospital programme would be coming to the capital and that her toddler needed an operation.

Juliene, Mariya’s mother

When I first got the news, I felt hurt that a child this small is going to be oper­at­ed upon, so it was painful for me; but after all the end of it is for her to have her sight back. So, I said that the will of God be done. It was very painful see­ing such a thing in her eyes. I did not see this sit­u­a­tion when she was born. I asked, what hap­pened? Did she fall?

Cataracts account for 50% of Cameroon’s cases of blindness

Juliene explains that Mariya’s operation went well, and Mariya slept comfortably afterwards, spending the night in Magrabi Hospital. She said: "The surgery doesn’t seem to have had any sort of negative effect on her. Sometimes she says 'take me to the plane where they cut my eye'!"

Perhaps it was the Orbis teddy bear that she was given on board that made the difference; Mariya has become so attached that she has taken to sleeping with it.

According to her followup appointment a month after the operation with Dr Omar Salamanca, Flying Eye Hospital staff ophthalmologist and Dr Ted Afetane, a local paediatric ophthalmologist, the outcome was positive too. The surgery was not as routine as some others can be, but it went well.

Dr Afetane tells us that Mariya will most likely need a second procedure to insert a lens, but this is not an uncommon procedure. Juliene is delighted with the outcome of the surgery and how Mariya is getting on.

Juliene, Mariya’s mother

I real­ly thank God for Orbis as Orbis saved my daugh­ter. Many par­ents wish their chil­dren could be oper­at­ed on as my daugh­ter was, but they didn’t have the oppor­tu­ni­ty. Even those who have been oper­at­ed on did not get the same exper­tise as Orbis offered — Mariya was oper­at­ed with no com­pli­ca­tions. I’m real­ly grateful

Little Mariya started school in September, which she loves. She also has lots of friends, which is easy to believe as she chats away and plays with her toys. Apparently, when her teacher leaves the room she sits in her seat and bosses the other children around – perhaps there’s a teaching career on the horizon as we're told 'she likes giving orders!'

She also enjoys helping at home, sweeping and washing dishes. She always wants to be doing something – including going back to the plane.

In the fight against avoidable blindness, every minute counts

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