Thursday, October 15, 2015

back to Liberia

"Is he blind?" said one lady, viewing a photo of my first trip to Rivercess, Liberia. There were several photos of blind people in the booklet, so why was she pointing at the eyes of a friend who had his full eyesight? 

Blindness is out of hand in West Africa for several reasons. For instance, people suffering from cataract in Europe undergo fast and simple surgery, but this is unavailable to most people who have the same problem in Africa. Then there's all the bugs causing Filarial diseases, like River Blindness. A short cure with anti-worm tablets before the eyes are damaged can completely prevent this type of blindness. Three small tablets are needed, but being nowhere near those tablets, people go blind. And now there is the Ebola aftermath, with about a quarter of the survivor's suffering with eye problems, some of which have gone completely blind as well.

Taking care of resources: even the gloves are washed and re-used.

Often a lack of resources is the cause of blindness, which again diminishes the sufferers resources as being blind doesn't help in finding and keeping a job. Add to that the stigma of disease, which may well lead to becoming a social outcast, so suffering is multiplied and the sufferer overlooked many times over.

Back to the portrait at the beginning of this blogpost. Glancing over at the eyes in the picture, I noticed what this lady saw. A couple of serious-looking eyes, and there seemed to be a film over them. Eyes that have not gone blind, but that have seen too much. Running from war, watching helplessly as friends and family suffer all sorts of brokenness, seeing disease that should've been treated and fighting a helplessness that creeps into so many homes and hearts.

People from wealthier countries sometimes seem to think that suffering is a way of life in developing countries, as if it belongs there. People are used to it and they are still happy and smiley about it and they know how to dance well, so they'll be fine.

They are not fine. Africa has many courageous survivors, but it is not OK for us to be blind to their pain. There is no satisfying end to this post and I have no simple solutions. I guess I will go back and ask: "How are you?"
A shaky starting position, but we'll see from there.

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