Agira Joaquim: “I never thought I would see again”
Mother-of-three Agira Joaquim is 30 years old and lives in Nampula in northern Mozambique. For the past five years she’s suffered from problems with her eyes.
“I came to the hospital and was given drugs and ointment, but this didn’t solve the problem permanently so I had to keep going back to the eye camps,” she explains. “Then one day the local ophthalmic technician called me and told me I should come to the hospital to be operated on.”
Agira was diagnosed with trachoma, an infectious eye disease that causes the eyelashes to turn inwards and scratch on the cornea. Without treatment, it can lead to permanent blindness.
“I have been desperate for treatment for a few reasons: my vision is affected, my eyes are really painful and itchy and I believe my husband left me because of the disease,” she explains. “I’d been struggling for quite some time and unable to fetch water, go to the market or do my farming, although I do still try to cook. The only food I have is what my mother provides for me.
“I had a three-year-old baby who got sick at the same time my mother got sick. There was nobody to help me to take the baby to hospital, and my baby died.
“I really hope this surgery will recover some of my vision and stop the pain. Maybe I can regain some self-esteem – maybe one day I’ll get married again and leave my mother’s house.
“I’m not afraid of going for surgery – I feel confident. But I also feel that if it is God’s will to be cured, I will be glad. If not, I’ll be OK, given that I’m already living like this.”
After Agira’s operation, she was overjoyed to find the pain gone and her sight saved. “I never imagined that my eyes would stop watering and I would see people again and be able to distinguish them by their faces. Before the operation I was just recognising things and people by noise and sounds, but now I can see them. I’m happy that the pain is gone from my eyes. But the thing that makes me happiest about the treatment is being able to see my children clearly again.
“I would like to set a good example for others with the same problem as me, to make sure they also get treatment – preferably on time.”
Agira is just one of the patients who has been treated as part of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative, which is working to eliminate blinding trachoma across the Commonwealth.
Three months later
When the local team travelled to Agira’s village for a follow-up visit, she wasn’t at her mother’s house – she’s now living with her new husband. Her mother sent someone to call her and she made her way to the house without any help, smiling broadly.
“I’m feeling good – I see much better than before. I’m happier than ever! I’m enjoying walking around, visiting people by myself without any help.
“After the surgery I met a man who is now my husband. I think this is because the surgery made a big difference to my appearance and my life. I’m now able to take care of myself, to be a wife and take care of the house. I do a lot of things I couldn’t do before surgery and never thought I would be able to do again.
“I am really happy with this new stage in my life, and I’m really glad for this happening to me. It is so good to look in the mirror and see what I am today, and I pray that many other people can continue having treatment like I had.”