Alemnesh is 33, though she looks much older. She’s a single mother of four, the youngest is just a baby.
As we talk, Alemnesh keeps her eyes lowered – they are irritated and leak discharge down her cheeks. When she does look up to make eye contact, she can’t help but squint.
She and her children live in a house borrowed from her brothers. When those brothers come back, there won’t be room for all of them. Then Alemnesh has no idea what she’ll do.
She scrapes together what she can by harvesting crops for other farmers. But it’s not enough to keep her children in school or to keep her family well-nourished. At 12, her oldest son, Belnew, spends his days watching the other children as Alemnesh goes off to work.
“I do not make enough. I go to work, but after a day or two I get tired and start feeling unhealthy. With my income I try to purchase cheap food items, cereals or dried maize and things like that.”
Alemnesh tells us about the health issues she is having.
“I get headaches at the front of my head, and I have eye problems. My eyes itch and have sores – it is difficult to open and close them. My eyelashes bother me.”
That’s what advanced trachoma looks like – in-turned eyelashes that scratch the cornea with every blink. Without surgery to correct the position of the eyelid, people use wooden tweezers to pluck out their eyelashes just to ease the pain for a week or two – before the lashes grow back in.
Sometimes Alemnesh can’t work for 2 or 3 days at a time. When she is suffering the most, she has to stay in bed. She does this because the light hurts her eyes so much.
Alemnesh has tears constantly running down her cheeks. So does her baby.
That’s a weight on Alemnesh’s heart and mind.
“I am very worried. I am worried about my youngest – there are sores on her eyes too. I want help for my baby.”
Alemnesh had eyelid surgery on her left eye 2 years ago to stop her eyelid from turning in and to save her sight. But the trachoma is back.
“There is nothing that can help my eyes. I went to a clinic. They told me to get help through surgery, but I cannot have surgery on my other eye. I have no money and no one to help take care of my children.”
Their water source is a protected spring, but it is so far away they only go for water once a day. Alemnesh tells us that because so many people go there for water, there is often a shortage of water.
It takes an hour to walk there and back and sometimes they have to wait up to 3 hours because the water runs out.
They use the water they get for cooking and drinking mainly. If there is enough, then they use it for washing.
Alemnesh and her children need people like you to give them a fighting chance. Without you and our partner in Ethiopia, she is alone. She has nowhere else to turn.