Saliou's story

November 2019

Little Saliou from Cameroon was only three years old when he started struggling with his sight. He couldn't see very well when playing, and his parents noticed that his right eye would often slide sideways before focusing again. To protect him from getting hurt, his worried mother, Hawaou, had to stop him going outside to play.

When his family first took him to the doctor, they were told he needed glasses - however they didn't help, and his sight continued to deteriorate.

His eyesight became so bad that he ended up falling down the stairs at home, suffered from severe headaches and struggled to see the blackboard and write at school.

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

Hawaou, Saliou's mother

He eventually dropped out of school because of his sight - and for a while it looked like Saliou would live a life of blindness.

Paediatric patient Saliou, wearing a blue football shirt, sits on his mother's lap

Saliou sits with his mother in his favourite Chelsea Football Club shirt.

Hawaou was disheartened, but persevered in trying to get the treatment needed to save her son's sight - and a year later, it paid off!

Saliou was referred to one of the Orbis-supported programmes at the Magrabi Eye Institute. It was here that he was confirmed as having cataract. His family were then given the incredible news that the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital was soon coming to Yaoundé, and Saliou could be operated on board the plane!

Doctor training nurses.

Staff on board the Flying Eye Hospital in Cameroon prepare for surgery.

Saliou had his sight-restoring operation a few weeks later, and his transformation has been incredible!

Once a little boy who had to stay indoors to keep safe, he now loves to get outside and play football with his friends. Hawaou tells us: “He’s very active. He will hurt his head again now – but not from his eyes, from playing!"

He's also found a new love of writing. Hawaou tells us he's taken to writing in chalk all over the walls, but she doesn’t even seem to mind. She just seems happy to see him smiling and enjoying himself again. It’s not just writing – he is fascinated by our camera, and soon works out how to scroll through the pictures we have taken. A tiny journalist in the making.

Saliou sits with his family in their front room.

With his sight restored, Saliou has now been able to return to school - and continue his vital education. He now loves getting involved with lessons and helping to write on the board.

As we leave his house, we are in awe of the life-changing work our supporters have made possible - and ecstatic that this little boy can play football, return to school and live a life free from blindness.

Find out more about cataracts