Most of us don’t give a second thought to blinking – we do it mindlessly around 20 times per minute, but for trachoma sufferers, every blink of the eye can cause excruciating pain.
Trachoma is a painful eye condition where the eyelid begins to turn inwards and the eyelashes scrape painfully across the eyeball. The disease is infectious and can spread easily in areas that lack good sanitation and water supplies. It is a debilitating disease that worsens over time, trapping people in a cycle of poverty and dependence on others for their care. It stops children playing with their friends or going to school and families from earning livelihoods. Eventually, it can lead to complete loss of sight.
Sightsavers works to eliminate avoidable blindness and our recent BLINK! exhibition at the Oxo Gallery in London took a creative approach to describing what the agonising eye condition, Trachoma, is like. The team approached top photographers across England with the brief of sharing ‘the last thing you would want to see before you lost your sight’ – and in return five stunning images were produced.
The images were displayed in smart digital frames and each time someone looking at a photo and blinked, the image would gradually decay. The more blinks, the more it degraded. The decline in picture clarity was an artistic interpretation of how trachoma’s distressing loss of sight can feel and by the end of the week, the images were deeply distorted and permanently destroyed.
The exhibition allowed the public to put themselves in the shoes of someone with trachoma and on behalf of myself and the team at Sightsavers it was heartwarming to see so many people in the heart of London interact with these powerful images and imagine what going blind from trachoma might be like.
This exhibition also marked the next stage of Sightsavers’ programme, The End is in Sight, launched earlier in 2019, which is aiming to bring life-changing treatments to some of the most vulnerable communities across Africa. The programme has already made strides in treating this condition that has plagued societies for centuries. In 2019 we beat trachoma in Ghana. Now, we’re on a mission to eradicate the disease everywhere else by 2025.
Our research into the disease means we know where is most affected, how to reach those areas and how to treat it – and now we need support. A straightforward surgery costing just £44 can reverse the disease and bring back eyesight for late-stage sufferers. Those with the beginning stages of the disease can take antibiotics costing just 15p per treatment.
We’re grateful for everyone’s support in helping us end trachoma and between October 9th 2019 and January 9th 2020, the UK government will match all donations up to £2 million – making each gift go twice as far. To find out more or how you could make a difference, please visit Sightsavers.
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