Meeting My “Daughter” in Niger

An inside look into HKI's trachoma control activities in Niger and Mali.
Ladies

Post by Emily Toubali, HKI’s Program Manager of Neglected Tropical Disease Control. Photos by Emily Toubali and Aryc Mosher.

Amina Nouhou lived for over 20 years with the searing pain of trichiasis, the final stage of the blinding disease of trachoma.  Each time she blinked, the eyelashes of her left eye scraped her cornea.  I cannot even begin to imagine the extreme discomfort she silently endured each day.  She woke up, cleaned her house, and cooked meals for her family, in constant suffering from this excruciating condition.

I met Amina one hot, dusty morning in Niger at a surgical camp HKI and the Ministry of Health had set up to perform eyelid surgery to reverse the ravages of trichiasis. Amina arrived very early in the morning, accompanied by her son.  I introduced myself to her and told her my husband is Nigerien, and his first name was her last name.  She immediately responded that I must be her mother since, in the Hausa culture, a father’s first name is passed along to his children as their last name. We were officially bonded.

Amina and her son

Amina Nouhou, who has lived for over 20 years with trichiasis, is accompanied by her son to the Centre de Santé Integré in Tibiri (Guindjan Rouji district in Niger) for surgery. 

As she waited patiently for her surgery, I asked her if she was afraid. She said she had been eagerly waiting for this moment for many years and was so happy that the big day had finally arrived. In my travels across Mali and Niger, I have met many women like my new “daughter” who dream of having the straightforward surgery that  can preserve their precious sight and reduce their daily debilitating pain. I was honored and touched to be part of the day when Amina’s dream finally became a reality.

Sadly, Amina’s story is all too common. Women are almost twice as likely as men to be affected by trichaisis.  Today, there are 320 million people at risk of trachoma infection in the developing world, and urgent action is needed.  HKI implements the SAFE strategy  – Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness, Environmental Improvement  – to control the disease. In two countries where HKI works – Mali and Niger – trachoma is on track to be eliminated by 2015!

I hope these countries serve as examples to demonstrate that the SAFE strategy works. We can eliminate trachoma so that women like Amina no longer have to suffer or go blind needlessly.

The photographs below provide images of activities in Mali and Niger.

Teacher

Primary school teacher, Oumourou Allassain, in Guinji village, Madaoua (Tahoua region in Niger). Mr. Allassain teaches children about trachoma with a focus on prevention (facial cleanliness and environmental improvement) and encourages children to bring the messages home to their communities.

Sign

A sign created by one of the children in Mr. Allassain’s class explaining the symptoms of trachoma and key ways the disease is spread: “Symptoms of trachoma infection include watery eyes, ocular secretions, redness and itching of the eyes. Trachoma is transmitted by dirty hands, dirty clothing, and flies.”

Woman post-surgery

Woman in the Sikasso district of Mali is led back to her house by her son post-surgery

Tweezer

Tweezers used to pluck out eyelashes of a trichiasis patient in an attempt to stop her pain.

Latrine

A father showing off the traditional latrine he constructed (with the support from HKI’s partner, The Carter Center) in the Garinfarou village, Niger.

Radio Station

Radio Tsirkau Kantche in the Zinder region of Niger was rehabilitated with support from Helen Keller International; today, it broadcasts radio messages about trachoma prevention and trichiasis surgical schedules to remote communities.

Patients in Niger

Patients waiting for surgery display their blue identification cards at a camp in Niger.

Doctor

Dr. Boubacar Kadri, Assistant Director of the National Blindness Prevention Program in Niger, provides a certificate to Dr. Mamane Sani, a trichiasis surgeon in Maradi, who passed his final assessment in January 2012.

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Categories: Africa, Preventing Blindness

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  1. Pingback: Meeting My “Daughter” in Niger » End the Neglect

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