Saffie Koroma: Ebola nightmare after Sierra Leone’s traumas of war

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MY name is Saffie Koroma. I was born in 1990. I became blind during Sierra Leone’s rebel war, at the age of six.

It all happened one day, when the rebels attacked my village. My father and some of our family friends were trying to run from my village to a hiding place in the bush.

It was then we fell into an ambush by the rebels. At that moment, everyone was caught and immediately held at gunpoint.

They started killing them, one after another. Plenty of people were killed, including all of our family friends.

When they reached my father, because I had seen the way others were killed, I started to cry because my father was taken to be killed.

I shouted with a loud voice. I was warned by the rebels to stop.

Upon my refusal when my father was killed, they melted plastic and dropped it in my eyes.

I was then abandoned in the bush. A day after the rebels left, a friend of my mother’s found me lying in the bush in great pain, almost helpless.

She took me and brought me to my mother. At that time, there were no hospitals in operation. So my mother put some herbs into my eyes to ease the pain.

My mother struggled with me throughout the course of the war 
when my eyes were no longer functioning.

Immediately after the war, I was brought to the capital city, Freetown, for a medical examination, only to discover that there was no hope for my sight.

As a way of becoming useful and responsible, we were directed by the doctors to the Milton Margai School for the Blind in Freetown.

It was really difficult for my mother to believe or even accept that I had become totally blind and would no longer see.

But with words of encouragement to her, she believed that I would one day become somebody useful to my society.

So with courage and hope, she decided to take me to the Milton Margai school.

With my blindness and the death of my father, my mother and myself have lost all the happiness the world could offer.

Since I became blind, life for me has not been an easy one.

I have always faced difficulties and challenges.

My blindness has affected me psychologically because every time I remember the inhuman way the rebels treated me I become bitter about life.

I have encountered marginalisation, discrimination and provocation.

I have been refused the right to contribute or participate positively towards issues about development in any form.

In my secondary school, the teachers did not know how to treat or attend to blind people.

Whenever they came to class, they only wrote on the blackboard for those who could see and did not care about any student without sight in the class.

Because of this, education in secondary college and universities is very difficult to go through successfully

Due to the plentiful challenges and difficulties, especially in getting the required materials for exams, pursuing study at university has been my greatest difficulty.

Finally, now we are faced with this deadly Ebola virus in our country, Sierra Leone.

As a blind girl, who greatly depends on sighted people for my mobility, especially in fighting for my survival, it has now become an even greater challenge because of people avoiding body contact.

My greatest prayer or wish is to see the end of this Ebola crisis in our beloved country so that life can again return to normality because as it is now I even fear touching or holding any member of my family because of the fear of contracting Ebola.

This article was produced on behalf of the Campaign Against Injustice for Persons with Disability, a new lobby group based in Freetown. It was founded by campaigning blind Sierra Leone journalist Immurrana Vandy.

Readers can donate to the UK Association for Schools for the Blind in Sierra Leone, a UK-registered charity.