The roads to Madiana are riddled with potholes that turn to small lakes in the rainy season. Even if you travel in a four-wheel drive jeep, it takes well over an hour to travel just a short distance to the village.
Fatou Camara, 70, is a retired farmer living in Madiana with 8 other members of her family. Her four young grandchildren spend most days in the company of their grandmother, even though she can’t recognize them. She’s the namesake for two of her granddaughters - Fatou (11) & Fatou Kanteh (10).
Fatou Camara (left) at home with her daughter Bakato in Madiana.
They all live together in a simple, well-kept home surrounded by fields. Bits of concrete and a tire sit on top of their roof to keep it from being blown away in a storm. A fence made of improvised sheet metal protects a small garden.
For the past 6 years, Fatou has been nearly blind from cataracts. Her Gambian ID card sits on one of the tables in her home, but to Fatou the photo of her younger self was just a blur. It’s actually rare to find someone who is still physically healthy and has been blind for that long since the risks of falling or any number of other injuries are so much higher with blindness.
"Life was difficult before," Fatou told us. When she developed severe cataracts, she could no longer do any household work or work in her family’s fields outside their home.
Fatou’s mature cataract in her right eye seen before surgery.
Fatou’s daughter Bakoto set everything aside to take care of her blind mother.
Fatou with her grandson, 5-year-old Alieu.
"I was very sad and found it very difficult because my mom could not see properly," Bakoto said.
Only when they met a community health worker, working with Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Center did Fatou and her daughter learn that she would be able to see once again.
Fatou received cataract surgery in her left eye this summer. During the first week of the HelpMeSee campaign in The Gambia, she received the same operation to remove the cataract in her right eye. Thanks to the hard work of the local surgeons at Sheikh Zayed, Fatou can return to her grandchildren and enjoy life again with restored sight.
Fatou (left) and her daughter Bakoto at home in Madiana, The Gambia.