Neima and Sitra’s story: Why trachoma elimination is so vital

This is what life is like when a childhood is constantly disrupted by trachoma, and why your support matters so much.

Sisters Neima and Sitra are only three and six years old, but trachoma already threatens their future. When an Orbis-supported screening takes place in their village in Gurage Ethiopia, both sisters are diagnosed with an infection.

Their mother, Asma states that these are not their first infections, and the condition is already bringing pain and difficulty to their childhoods.

“When they have trachoma infections, they have pain and itch their eyes. They have difficulty seeing in sunlight. They can’t look up. They only look down.”

Neima and Sitra with their mother, Asma, and sibling.

Neima and Sitra with their mother, Asma, and older sister.

When the sisters get sick their only chance of treatment relies on Asma travelling to their nearest health centre – a seven kilometre journey on foot. The medication she collects gives the girls temporary relief, but it alone will not prevent further infections.

“When they get sick, they are forced to stay indoors. The sickness prevents them from playing with other children in the village. I feel sad that they are getting this disease at this young age.”

Sadly Neima and Sitra’s story is not unique - in some areas of Ethiopia, as many as one in five children have trachoma right now.

As a child gets older, repeat infections can lead to the advanced stages of the disease called trachomatous trichiasis. The eyelashes begin to turn inwards, scratching and scarring the eye, and ultimately leading to permanent blindness.

Without action to prevent repeat infections, Neima and Sitra are at risk from losing their sight in this agonising way.

How to Save Sight From Trachoma

As soon as the sisters are diagnosed with trachoma the Orbis-trained health worker applies eye ointment to their eyes. This will treat the infection. Asma is shown how to apply the ointment twice a day to the girls' eyes.

When we visited Neima and Sitra just one day after first meeting them, their symptoms had already improved. This time they are running around, playing outside with friends.

“I was frightened when I heard they had trachoma. But I am delighted to get the medicine they need. I will follow the health worker’s instructions. I am hopeful they will heal soon.”

“I wish for my children to go to school, to learn and transform their lives. I want them both to get a good education and become strong readers. That is why I am very happy to have been able to access treatment. I will be happy when trachoma is eliminated.”

Sitra receives tetracycline eye ointment during community trachoma screening.

Sitra receives tetracycline eye ointment during community trachoma screening.

Help Us Eliminate Trachoma

It costs Orbis just 22p per child on average to provide a child with antibiotics like those that treated Neima and Sitra’s trachoma.

With millions of children at risk, donations can play a major role in protecting children, and helping to eliminate trachoma for good by 2030.

When we reach this goal, children like Neima and Sitra, and parents like Asma, won’t have to worry about trachoma anymore. With your help, we can create a brighter future for all at risk of trachoma and avoidable blindness in Ethiopia.

Help us make history and eliminate trachoma in Ethiopia by 2030

Donate today
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