Meet Susan, a Maasai beader and mother suffering from trichiasis. Trichiasis, an advanced stage of trachoma whereby the eyelashes turn inwards and scratch the cornea, eventually leads to irreversible blindness. Susan was in danger of losing her livelihood, as well as her sight. Sunlight hurt her eyes. It is said to feel like grains of sand scratching across the surface of your eye every time you blink.

As well as the fear of going blind, Susan was faced with not being able to support herself and her children, who like 16.6 million others in Kenya, were at risk of intestinal worms.

Making a difference

A simple procedure saved Susan’s vision and her livelihood. After the 15-minute surgery performed by an ophthalmic nurse in a community health center, Susan claimed, “I have seen the difference this surgery makes. I encourage my community—anyone who has this eye problem—that surgery will be successful.” She could now return to beading both day and night, without pain.

“I have seen the difference this surgery makes. I encourage my community—anyone who has this eye problem—that surgery will be successful.”

In addition to the surgery, Susan received medication to prevent a recurrence of trachoma, while her children were treated for intestinal worms, which prevents stunted growth and impaired brain function.

Treatment for trachoma and intestinal worms is part of an integrated strategy to mobilize resources to control and prevent the five most prevalent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which also include schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis and river blindness.

Launched in 2012, the END Fund is a private philanthropic initiative to combat NTDs, a group of parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases. Together they affect over 1.5 billion of the world’s most impoverished people, including 800 million children. They cause severe pain, long-term disability, and are the cause of death for 500,000 people per year.