Sara: Nothing to be afraid of
No 12-year-old wants to be the odd one out at school. But for Sara, from Mozambique's Moma district, social stigma has been a painful side effect of a childhood blighted by trachoma.
When we first met Sara, before she underwent eye surgery, she told us: “My colleagues do not sit close to me as they fear to be contaminated. Before I had four friends in the school, but since my eyelashes have inverted they don’t stay with me anymore. All this because I am sick. Their attitude makes me very sad. If I could have the eyelashes not touching my eyeball it would be great. I think people would stop fearing me. I would probably improve in school, have more friends and play football.”
Over the past four years Sara’s father had taken her several times to the local hospital, only to be told that her condition was incurable. When she was finally referred to Nampula Central Hospital, her father could not afford to take her.
Eventually the family’s community leader visited their home and told them that a medical team was looking for people with trachoma and would transport them to hospital for surgery. Sara and her father made the journey, and she successfully received treatment.
We met Sara again two weeks after surgery, and the difference was remarkable. “I’ve been feeling good, no pain and my vision has improved a lot,” she told us. “I am just fine – my neighbours are always coming to see me, and I’m just happy my school friends do not fear me anymore. One day I hope I will be able to study more and become a doctor or nurse, to heal people the same way I was healed.”
Before the surgery
Two weeks after surgery – follow up Sara having her sutures removed
Sara and João with their family