In photos: changing lives in Cameroon – Saliou

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.

Saliou's Story

The first story we’re sharing is little Saliou’s from Yaoundé. He experienced a challenging start to his childhood. At a very young age, his parents spotted problems with his vision. His eyesight was so bad that he was forced to drop out of school, suffered from severe headaches and even fell down the stairs at home. Thankfully, his cataract was removed on board the Flying Eye Hospital and now he is in school and looking ahead to a bright future!

Saliou’s eye issues began when he was three years old; his parents noticed that his right eye would slide sideways then focus again. He could not see very far and would fall over when playing. His worried mother, Hawaou, stopped him going outside to play in case he injured himself.

When his family first took him to the doctor, they were told he needed glasses. In fact, a year later it was discovered that Saliou actually had a cataract, and was referred to an Orbis programme at the Magrabi Eye Institute. The family were told about our Flying Eye Hospital visit to Yaoundé, and that Saliou would be operated on on board the plane.

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

Saliou was the first in his family to ever have an operation. Hawaou tells us that when Saliou went for his surgery, she was scared.

Hawaou, Saliou's mother

I thought about it a lot, but his father told me that every­thing was going to be fine. Now, the eye prob­lem has gone, so I’m hap­py. Saliou, on the oth­er hand, was just hap­py to be on the Fly­ing Eye Hos­pi­tal. He talks about it a lot

The difference in Saliou’s life since his operation has been significant. Last year, his eyesight had been causing him huge problems. He had severe headaches and a serious aversion to light. He struggled to see the blackboard and write.

Hawaou, Saliou's mother

It real­ly dis­turbed him last year. The school would call me to come and pick him up
Child in glasses.

Eventually, the headaches were happening so frequently that Saliou was forced to drop out of school

Orbis intervention, thanks to your support, has changed that. Saliou loves writing and writes in chalk all over the walls of his home. His mother doesn’t even seem to mind. She just seems happy to see him smiling and enjoying himself again. It’s not just writing – he was fascinated by our camera, and soon worked out how to scroll through the pictures we had taken. A tiny journalist in the making.

His mother tells us: “He’s very active. He will hurt his head again now – but not from his eyes, from playing!” Saliou likes playing football, and changes into a Chelsea shirt the minute we arrive at his house. Now he can play football with his brothers and sisters to his heart’s content, with no worries of injury due to his sight.

They are good friends, although apparently there has been a little friction lately: “After his surgery he was bragging that he’s been to the plane and they have not."

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