First published November 16, 2023 by The Carter Center.
The quest for health among neglected people is marked by daily acts of heroism. Take Lodai Peter Linus’ actions.
Lodai is a young, Carter Center-trained case finder with the South Sudan Ministry of Health’s Trachoma Control Program. Trachoma is a bacterial eye disease. Repeated infections can cause trachomatous trichiasis, or TT, turning eyelashes inward so that they painfully scratch the eyeball with every blink. This can damage the cornea, leading to vision impairment and often, blindness.
TT can be reversed with a simple surgical procedure that stops the intense suffering and the progression to blindness. The challenge lies in finding patients and getting them to surgery.
In February and March 2023, The Carter Center supported a joint TT and cataract surgery campaign led by the South Sudan Ministry of Health in Budi County, in the southeastern part of the country. Working with the Himalayan Cataract Project and the Ophthalmological Association of South Sudan, the Center helped set up a temporary surgical camp.
Budi County’s terrain is mountainous, and there are few roads. So, in many areas, case finders ventured out on foot in search of patients with vision issues. Lodai Peter Linus found 70-year-old Santina Koritom, blinded by cataracts, living on a mountainside. She agreed to undergo surgery, but she could not manage the descent from her home on her own. So, Lodai carried her down the mountain on his back.
“I carried her to where we could meet the vehicle,” Lodai said. “I did not want to leave her, because I was confident that she was going to see if operated upon. I also imagined what she goes through as a mother with her situation — being blind and not able to provide for her children, and the burden on the family.”
Lodai was right about the benefits Santina would enjoy.
“A day after surgery, Santina was able to see and walk home alone, and she was able to recognize and greet many people she knew before she lost her sight,” said Stephen Ohidor, who manages the Carter Center’s Trachoma Control Program in South Sudan and who trained Lodai.
“Lodai was exceptionally committed to his work and undertook the requirements of his role with a positive attitude, using his potential and strength to serve others,” Ohidor said.
Partnering with the Himalayan Cataract Project made it possible to help more people more efficiently. By the end of the 23-day campaign, 169 TT patients and 276 cataract patients had received sight-saving surgery. With heroes like Lodai on the job, similar successes in other places may not be far off.