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Bringing Light Back for Millions of Lives

Mother-of-five and widow Gubane has suffered from a painful eye infection and been nearly blind in one eye for many years. Fearing she couldn’t afford to have her condition treated, she didn’t even bother finding out what it would cost.

Gubane is one of 1.2 million people in Ethiopia suffering from trachoma, a highly infectious eye disease that thrives in poor and remote communities where there’s a lack of access to clean water, sanitation and health care. It is a public health problem in 44 countries, with 137 million people globally at risk of trachoma blindness. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the challenge, disrupting the program and delaying help.

Gubane works as a daily laborer to raise her four young children aged 12, 8, 6 and 2, while her eldest daughter moved elsewhere to find work. She suffered several trachoma infections, which made her eyes itchy and teary. On some days, the throbbing pain kept her from going to work, which dealt a significant blow to her family’s finances.

Before and after photos of Gubane’s surgery

Fortunately for Gubane, help eventually came.

Trained eye care workers from Orbis International, a non-profit dedicated to fighting trachoma, visited her village. When they saw her, they immediately knew she had a severe case and whisked her to a medical centre for treatment. They couldn’t afford to lose any more time.

Gubane first underwent trachoma surgery for her severely infected right eye. One week later, doctors operated on her left eye. The procedure was successful, with Gubane immediately noticing a dramatic improvement to her vision in both eyes.

“No pain, no tears, no scratching of my eyes. My vision is restored in my right eye, and my left eye is good too,” Gubane said. “I almost lost the vision of my right eye. I still don’t believe that I was able to get this treatment. I want to thank my God and all of you who supported me.”

Gubane’s mother was overjoyed at her daughter’s improvement.

“We were so scared with her repeatedly suffering pain in her eye,” her mother said. “We thought Gubane might lose her eyesight and become dependent on others. We were also so concerned for her children. I don’t have the words to express the relief I felt looking at the improvement in her eyes. God is with us. Thank you.” 

Orbis International has been fighting trachoma in Ethiopia for more than 20 years, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It has set an ambitious goal of treating 10 million people in the southern part of the country. 

As a non-profit, Orbis can only perform treatment on patients like Gubane when they receive donations. With trachoma still rampant in Ethiopia, Orbis still needs donations to help it eradicate trachoma entirely. 

Tencent has been partnering with Orbis since last year, when the Tencent Foundation introduced the 99 Giving Day in Hong Kong for the very first time. It helped contribute to the global effort towards providing sustainable comprehensive eye care services and eradicating trachoma. You can read more about 99 Giving Day, how it started, and who it helps by visiting here.

Hong Kongers were able to donate using their mobile devices without even leaving home. Hong Kongers opened their wallets – and their hearts — to donate at a rate 100 times higher than the donations received on WeChat Pay Hong Kong’s charity platform.

This year we will continue to partner with Orbis to support the timely diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. Funds raised will go towards providing free eye examination kits that can be used at home, access to seminars on eye care and eye care packages. Proceeds from 99 Giving Day will travel further than ever this year, and fund the setup of eye centers in remote areas of Bangladesh, where an estimated 750,000 people have some form of visual impairment. 

Together, we can bring light back for millions of lives.