Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 16: Why Children Lose Their Vision and What We Can Do

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HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Blind > Chapter 16: Why Children Lose Their Vision and What We Can Do

When people confront health problems like blindness, they often look for physical and medical causes. These causes are important, and you can learn about them in this chapter. However, to prevent blindness in a community, we also have to look at the social causes of blindness. For example, poor children are more likely to have eye infections and difficulty seeing than other children. Why?

The Story of Penda and Kesi

Penda lives in a small village in Africa. Several years ago, her husband died in a bus accident, leaving her with 3 young children. A few months later, she had another baby, a girl named Kesi. To feed her 4 children, Penda had to work long hours, so she stopped breastfeeding early.

When Kesi was 1 year old, her left eye got swollen. Penda treated her daughter’s eye with herb compresses, but Kesi’s eye did not get better. A few days later, a thick liquid started coming out of Kesi’s eye. Penda was very worried. She had no money for a doctor, so a friend took Penda and Kesi to see a health worker in another village.

The health worker told Penda that her daughter was not getting enough of the right foods, so her eyes were losing their sight. To have healthy eyes, she explained, children need to eat foods like green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables and orange fruits that have vitamin A, which keeps eyes healthy. The health worker treated Kesi with vitamin A capsules. It was too late to save the sight in Kesi’s left eye, but the treatment was early enough to save the sight in Kesi’s right eye.

Penda was thankful that some of her daughter’s sight had been saved. Now, she wants to teach other mothers about how important vitamin A is for children’s eyes. She and the health worker are planning a meeting for pregnant women and mothers of young children. Penda is hopeful that other mothers in her village can find low-cost ways to eat better and improve health for themselves and their children.