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Cataracts

Shakulu’s sight is declining – he is going needlessly blind.

Shakulu is zooming around outside his house. Sometimes he chases the flapping wings of the chickens and other times he veers off until he reaches the shade of the house.

Then, he stops and gently lifts his arms to touch the protruding, dusty ridges of the brick wall. Close by, his mother, Zaitun, watches him carefully in case he falls.

Shakulu is just three years old, but already his world is clouded by the darkness of cataracts in both eyes. Running back to his mother, he tilts his head and squints to try and see her smiling down at him.

Her smile masks a burden of worry and care. Living in a small village in Africa, Zaitun and her husband Robert live in acute poverty in an old brick house with crumbling walls.

They have some land, but the condition of the soil is so bad that it barely yields a crop big enough to feed the family.

It is clear that Zaitun and Robert want the very best for their children. You can imagine their fear and sadness then, when they noticed that there was something wrong with their third child. Zaitun remembers, “I gave birth to Shakulu in a hospital. I was happy. He was fine. I did not immediately notice any problem with his vision.”

But when Shakulu was just 5 months old, his parents noticed white spots in his eyes. When Zaitun took him to the local hospital they told her that they could not help him and that he needed to go to the hospital in Kampala, over 200 km away.

In desperation, they sold their goat to pay to take their beloved child to the big hospital in Kampala. There, he was diagnosed as having cataracts in both eyes, but was told that he would have to wait to receive surgery as there were not enough surgeons to operate.

Shakulu’s surgery, including the anaesthetic, costs just $230. But for parents like Robert and Zaitun, who have no means of income, this is a cost far beyond their means..

It is critical that young children with cataracts are operated on when still young as eventually the nerves “forget how to see” and, even after surgery, their vision does not improve much.

Can you imagine the hopelessness of knowing what is wrong with your child, but not being able to do anything about it?

Fortunately for Shakulu, our partners at Mengo Hospital in Kampala heard about him and arranged transport to the cbm-funded hospital. There, the surgeons checked his eyes and decided he was a good candidate for surgery.

A day after his surgery, the eye patches on Shakulu’s eyes are removed. Like many children his age, he is irritated as the patches go off. His mother looks at him intently and observes silently until Shakulu reaches for her hand. Can he finally see?

Shakulu could! His parents are full of praise for the surgeons and staff and extremely grateful to cbm supporters. His mother said “Please say thank you to the kind people who have restored my child’s sight. Ask them to send money to help the many other children who cannot see.” .