Azalech Hamusa is a 35 year old woman who lives in Gamo Gofa, Ethiopia. She has been suffering from trachomatous trichiasis for more than seven years. A widowed single mother of five children, Azalech is economically among the poorest of poor, making and selling clay pottery to survive. Both Azalech and her 16 year-old daughter Alemitu suffer from trichiasis and the pain and discomfort of their turned eyelashes.
According to Azalech, she and her daughter spent years removing painful eye lashes from their inward-facing eyelids using a mirror. This is not only painful but time consuming. These eye health problems limited Azalech’s family life, her work and participation in social activities. It also limited her daughter’s participation at school. She knew she needed to be at her best to support her family. After discussing vision care options with a neighbor who had undergone trichiasis surgery, she decided to have the operation herself.
Azalech received surgery in both eyes from Mamitu Adasho, an ORBIS-trained integrated eye care worker at a nearby health post. Her daughter, Alemitu Biere, underwent surgery in her right eye. While Azalech and her oldest daughter were recovering, the other daughters helped at home, taking care of the family and collecting clay soil for pot-making. Her son helped to prepare meals during their recovery period. Azalech received medical care at the local health post free of charge; she also received assistance with medicine and food. She and her daughter returned a week after surgery to have their stitches removed.
Today, Azalech has become an advocate for sight as well, telling others about the causes of trachomatous trichiasis and explaining how the surgery is safe and can help. She performs her daily job of making clay pots without any difficulty. She is doing so much better after surgery that her daughter and second son, who gave up their schooling due to economic and health problems, are now back in school. She participates in more social events, no longer feeling like an outcast in her own community.