As Djeneba Diallo walked into the operating room, her hand clasped together with the hand of a staffer at the Gaoussou Fofana ophthalmology clinic in Bamako, Mali, she had tears of joy and gratitude streaming down her face.
Djeneba, age 62, has been a widow for many years. She’s been taking care of herself and her home since her husband passed away, but this task has gotten more difficult recently. For the past several years, Djeneba has been one of the 2.1 million Malians – more than 10 percent of the country’s population – who live with impaired vision. She suffers from cataracts, a progressive eye disease causing severe blurry or discolored vision. Cataracts occur naturally in many people’s eyes as they age. They are also associated with a number of health conditions, including diabetes, malnutrition, excessive exposure to sunlight, and previous eye injuries.
Older adults with impaired vision are at great risk for falling and injuring themselves in their home or out in public. They also face elevated risks of social isolation, as well as complications in performing simple, daily tasks like eating and washing. All of this has made Djeneba’s life more difficult than it needs to be.
A surgical procedure to remove cataracts is a common option with a very high rate of success in restoring vision. But in less-developed countries like Mali, the cost of an eye surgery is unaffordable for many, including Djeneba. And even when people can afford surgery, they may need to travel long distances to receive basic healthcare services.
These are problems Embrace Relief is addressing through its Cure Cataracts program. Under this initiative, Embrace Relief is supporting three clinics in Mali’s populous capital city, Bamako, which offer health screenings and general care, but which specialize in ophthalmology. We also provide transportation to and from these clinics for anyone who needs it. The network also includes two Mobile Health Unit vehicles, which can travel several hours away from the capital in all directions, bringing healthcare directly to people who otherwise could not access it.
Learning about the Gaoussou Fofana clinic in Bamako must have been a miraculous feeling for Djeneba. After being provided food, water, and an examination, she was informed that she would be given life-changing cataract surgery for free – a gift courtesy of a donation of just $100 from an Embrace Relief donor. Overwhelmed, she could only repeat the phrase “I ni ce,” which means “Thank you” in her native language of Bambara. Djeneba thanked all of the clinic’s volunteers and staffers, and wished for long and happy lives for all of the clinic’s doctors.
“I thank all of the workers here and everyone who came together to help with this project,” she said. “I am a single woman and I have no way to help my eyes to see again on my own. I haven’t got money for this surgery, but you will operate on me for free.”
After her surgeries, Djeneba will be able to enjoy a higher quality of life thanks to Embrace Relief and the Gaoussou Fofana clinic. Her vision issues are unfortunately common – but her story is also proof of how many lives can be changed for the better when we act together.
Thousands of people in Mali are waiting to undergo eye surgeries like the ones Djeneba received. To date, Embrace Relief has given 4,200 people the gift of eyesight, and we’re just getting started. But we need your help. Every $100 you donate to Embrace Relief’s Cure Cataracts campaign ensures that one more person will be able to live a better life, and will be able to face the world with clear eyes. Join Embrace Relief and donate today!