Ismail’s story is a sad one. He comes from a village buried deep in poverty. Born with cerebral palsy and cataracts in both eyes which have left him completely blind, eight-month-old Ismail doesn’t receive the ongoing care he badly needs.

The day I visited was a hard one for Ismail’s mother Monni – as it would be for any mother whose baby was about to undergo surgery. It was all too familiar for her, as her eldest son Ibrahim had the same eye problems when he was a baby. As much as it was a comfort knowing how successful the operation could be, no parent wants to relive the moment their child was wheeled away down a hospital corridor on an operating table.

We were giving Monni and Ismail a lift to the hospital. One of the main reasons people have to live with blindness in developing countries is the lack of affordable medical care. The costs associated with having an operation – travelling to the hospital (which can often be very far away), taking time off work to be with your child, aftercare – quickly stack up.

Looking frightened and tired, carrying Ismail in one arm and a carrier bag with his belongings in the other, Monni stepped into our van. As she took her seat she broke down in tears. I didn’t know what to do – what could I say to comfort a mother whose son is about to go under anaesthetic? Not much. All I had to offer was a hug.

While Ismail was in surgery Monni couldn’t sit down. Even when a meal was offered to her (and it had probably been a while since she last ate properly) she couldn’t bring herself to eat. After what seemed like an eternity Ismail was out of surgery and Monni could breathe again. But seeing her little boy in bandages, looking so small and helpless in the big hospital bed brought Monni to tears. It had been an exhausting day for everyone.


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