Dasash Hasen: ‘I want to finish it’

As a newly trained nurse, the 21-year-old performs sight-saving eye surgeries for trachoma patients in Ethiopia.

Editor’s note: Viewers may find some of the pictures in this report disturbing.

At only 21, Dasash Hasen is already playing her part in the fight against trachoma.

Hasen works for the Ethiopian Department of Health’s Trachoma Programme as a nurse in the Amhara region in Ethiopia, where she performs corrective eye surgery for trachoma sufferers.

The bacterial infection does not directly make the sufferers go blind.

Multiple infections cause a condition known as trichiasis, where the eyelid develops so much scar tissue that the eyelashes start to turn inwards, scratching the eyeball with every blink.

The pain is made worse by sunlight, dust and smoke – preventing people from doing their daily chores, making it difficult for them to earn a living and dragging them into poverty.

This persistent and painful scratching of the eye eventually lead to blindness.

The surgery that Hasen performs on inside of the eyelid, corrects the eyelid and prevents the eyelashes from turning in.

It brings immediate relief from pain, allowing people to go back to their work in the fields, and prevents further damage to the eye.

Hasen is a part of an innovative “fast track” programme at the hospital, that teaches nurses how to perform this surgery in three weeks.

This is known as task-shifting, which involves teaching nurses to perform surgeries that patients have previously had to wait for a doctor to perform. Transferring these skills to nurses has led to treatment of more patients, before they lose their sight. In five years Ethiopia has reached half of its surgery target of 480,000 people.

Having nurses like Hasen means that the remaining 240,000 who need treatment have a better chance than ever of keeping their sight.

The idea of contributing to possible eliminating of trachoma is what motivates Hasen to continue with her work.

“When I give treatment to people, I want to finish it and see people cured. That is what I feel inside. I become satisfied when I help them become free from the suffering.”

Hasen is one of many health heroes of Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health.

Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health will air on Al Jazeera in 2014.