Enala Robert: Able to praise
Enala and Happy Robert are a couple from the Mangochi region of Malawi, who work as rice farmers and are active members of their church. For them, trachoma not only threatened their ability to feed the family, but also affected them being able to take part in religious activities.
As Enala describes it, this was the cruellest aspect of their 12 years with the disease.
“I was missing my participation in women’s guild activities at our church – I really missed dancing with my fellow guild members. My husband was a church elder, and he and I could not read the Bible any more.”
The couple first experienced eye problems in 2003, which gradually worsened until their vision became severely compromised and their eyes constantly produced tears and itched painfully. Having been successful rice farmers, able to feed themselves and support their household by selling a surplus, they found themselves struggling to maintain their crop.
“The problem severely affected our farming capabilities, especially in rice production,” explains Enala. “We used to grow a lot of rice, but by around 2010 we could not continue. We were only managing to grow some maize. This made our home and food insecure, and we didn’t have the money which we used to have after selling our rice. Things were becoming very difficult.”
Health workers and friends were unable to identify the problem, and the village herbalist suggested that Enala and Happy had been bewitched by someone envious of their relative prosperity. But when a public address van driving through their village announced that eye care clinicians would be on hand at their local clinic, the couple lost no time in seeking a professional opinion. They were quickly diagnosed, and leapt at the chance of surgery.
They now plan to return to rice farming, and immerse themselves in church life once again.
“I am so happy and grateful for what has happened,” said Happy. “We were told a lot of lies about this problem, but today it is like a miracle that I can see again. I will be able to read the Bible again!”