Many blind children in Burundi never reach their fifth birthday. For three-year-old Cesaria, time was running out.
Burundi is one of Africa’s smallest and poorest nations. After 12 years of civil war, Burundi’s people mostly live in disadvantaged, rural areas that have little access to medical and eye health services. With more than 87,000 people who are blind, and only three ophthalmologists who can perform cataract surgery, there’s a critical need to train, screen and perform surgeries there to help people out of the cycle of poverty.
Cesaria was one of these people we were able to help.
Blind from birth, Cesaria’s chances of surviving until her fifth birthday would have been slim. Unable to look after a blind child, Cesaria’s parents abandoned her soon after she was born. Thankfully, her grandmother Veronica stepped in to raise her instead. Veronica was the driving force in making sure Cesaria got the medical attention she needed.
However, with only US$4 a day to live on, Veronica couldn’t afford the vital surgery that would give Cesaria back her sight. This is where our local partners stepped in. Burundi’s only paediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Levi, performed Cesaria’s much-needed operation. It was just in time – the older children are, the harder it is to save their sight. For Cesaria, restoring her sight at such a young age gives her the chance to develop and experience childhood just like any other little girl.
Cesaria is very kind. Most of the time she is sitting there all day by herself in the corner until I take her to bed. But she is so very kind.
Wearing her best orange dress and gaping adult eye patches that almost covered her whole face, Cesaria peaked out from under her patches, giggling wildly because she knew, before anyone else, that she could see.
Less than 24 hours after the surgery, we experienced Cesaria’s delight in seeing the world for the first time. The spark of mischievousness that had been hiding in behind her blindness was finally revealed, and the moment she finally saw her grandmother was unforgettable.