Your child is born with an eye problem. Her eyes are so tiny, they’re hard to see. Your baby isn’t responding to your smile or coos. In fact, there is no sign she’s seeing you at all.
What do you do?
You rush her to the closest and best ophthalmologist within reach, right? If it means personal cost for faster or better service, you pay it. You borrow money from your parents, your siblings, your friends. Whatever it takes. Your child’s sight and future is at stake. This is already stressful.
Now put yourself in rural Malawi. There are only a handful of ophthalmologists in the entire country of 20 million. Most are in the two main cities and are asking more money than you make in a year. There’s only one place to go for the kind of paediatric eye care your child needs, and it’s 330 kms away.
You can’t scrape together enough even for travel costs, even if someone were to subsidize the surgical and treatment costs.
This isn’t a hypothetical story. This is the written account of Alinafe and her daughter Faith – a child born with microphthalmia with corneal dystrophy.
Alinafe is a young mom of 26 and when she gave birth to Faith, her husband left. “My husband divorced me. He said I am cursed and he cannot stay with me.”
“I then go back home to my parents and start running a small bakery so that maybe I could raise transport money to take my child to the hospital for assistance. But I couldn’t because the money raised from the sales was not enough to cater for transport and to feed two of us.”
Medical care or food. Sight or survival. These are brutal choices. No parent should have to make them.
After examining Faith, Dr. Vincent had to refer her to the only existing paediatric centre in Malawi, 330 kms away. He had to work hard to find the transport money for Faith’s mom. Otherwise, Faith would have to go back home, to a life of needless blindness.
Alinafe said, “All my hope is to see my child able to see just like any other person…”
No child like Faith should have to go blind for lack of transport money. Or for lack of trained professionals within reach.
But without access to the right expertise and care, that’s exactly what happens to thousands of children just like Faith.