Baby Sharifu’s Fight for Sight

2 March, 2011

As a father I’ve found myself on many occasions looking into the eyes of my sons and wondering to myself about their future. Who will they become, what will they be like, what will they achieve, how will they impact the world they live in. I look at them at these times and just marvel at the potential that they have.

Today I met 5 parents and their children who each told me in different ways of their dreams and hopes for their children. The difference was that they’d also at times gazed into their children’s eyes and seen something that left them concerned and frightened for their child’s future.


I met these families in the paediatric eye ward of a hospital of one of CBM Australia’s partners. Each of the children were there as patients for preparatory consultations in the lead up to surgeries that they’ll have tomorrow at the hospital.

The children each had different sight related impairments:

  • one child had an eye tumour which would sadly mean the loss of that eye
  • another had an injury that was the result of an accident playing with a stick
  • another had a glaucoma issue that had led to the eye bulging and needing surgery to relieve the pressure in the eye

Lastly I also met two babies (2 months and 6 months of age) who both had congenital cataracts. Many people often think about cataracts as a condition that older people have – but congenital cataract (when children are born with them) is more of an issue here in Tanzania. Read more about Cataracts here.

The mother of Sharifu, who is 6 months old and pictured with a cataract in his right eye (to your left) above, shared the story of last Friday noticing a white clouding in Sharifu’s eye and instinctively knowing something was wrong – but not knowing what to do.

She described feeling a loss of hope and wondering what Sharifu’s future would hold if he were to lose his sight.

Fortunately Sharifu’s Grandmother had heard of this problem through a program that the hospital runs and recommended that they attend the clinic. Within days he’s been assessed and tomorrow he is scheduled to have the surgery he needs.


Tomorrow I’ll be gowning up and going into surgery while Sharifu and the other children we met today have their operations. We’ll then followup the next day to see them have their eye patches removed. So do come back tomorrow to see how the surgery goes.

PS: here’s a video recap of the day with a few more visuals of the eye ward including some of the other kids we saw.

Learn more about Cataracts here.

  • Angela @ Homegrown Mom

    Precious… what a wonderful work you are doing. We take so much for granted here.

  • Toni Aull

    Is this diseased only to little children?…this is sad-Happy you guys are there…
    Good luck in Surgery Tomorrow

  • GutsyWriter

    Do you know how great it is to “see” the children and feel like we’re a part of what’s going on? I looked up causes of cataract on your link as was surprised to read about young babies having this problem especially since it may develop after an injury, inflammation, drug use or disease. What is the main reason for babies to get it? After a disease at birth? I don’t think I could watch the surgeries, but I certainly want to hear about the recovery of Sharifu, and the boy with the stick injury. Thanks Darren and all the others on your team. Sonia.Coming back tomorrow.

    • Elizabeth

      Occasionally childhood cataracts are a result of disease or injury. Congenital (“with birth”) cataracts are a result of either a developmental fluke or from genetics. In my daughter’s case, she inherited them from her daddy. He was the first case of congenital cataracts in his family. Most of the time, congenital cataracts aren’t anyone’s fault – they’re not from disease or drug use, they just happen.

  • John

    All the best with the surgeries ahead, this is really good stuff

  • Lindsay Dianne

    There are some people in the world who I cross paths with and who are truly shining stars who brighten my way. Today I needed to see this gift you’re giving. You’re helping more than just those children.
    You helped me with my own sight.

    • Darren Rowse

      Thanks Lindsay. To be honest this trip is more about opening my own eyes than anything else. I’ve done trips like this before but it’s so easy to slip back into comfort zones. I’m feeling very privileged to have the wakeup calls that this is giving me and it’s such a bonus that others are sharing the journey!

  • Betty

    It’s a privilege to see these wonderful photos and to read the stories. Amazing what CBM are achieving! Thanks for your updates and all that you’re doing.

  • Brian

    It’s sad to think these problems exist at all. Unfortunately they are all too common in the world. As a member of Lions Clubs International I hear of many more similar situations. Lions assist children around the world with sight problems. Perhaps you could suggest the local doctors contact local Lions Clubs to see if they can assist in any way.

  • Joelle Herman

    The images will certainly enlighten us all and foster support for more projects like these! Darren your making us all proud by bringing life to the people and their stories. What a journey, Great work!!! Joelle (MD,USA)

  • Sushil Khandelwal

    Dear sir, Behind all these photos i can feel your passion and I also would like to join you to serve my expereits in photography. Regards.

  • Coetzerc

    Hi Darren, very touching, one cannot help but feel compassion and a lot of emotion when reading of events like this, espectially those of us who do have out own lovely little children. I wish all the best for the families and the little ones involved.

  • Deepak

    feeling helpless

  • Rajuarimpur

    i seen your blogs man, Its Grate Job.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • asmit mane

    Good pic coo….l ! good job keep it up .

  • Monika

    Darren, when I woke up today I was feeling a little down and depressed. Upon openning my email, I saw your message and began looking through the photos and stories. They have certainly changed my mood and gave me much needed perspective into my own life and the blessings I have. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and these wonderful people; who continue to fight despite their circumstances. We can all take a lesson from them.

  • Elizabeth

    My daughter was born with very dense bilateral (both eyes) cataracts in 2002. While not exactly common, congenital cataracts aren’t rare, either. I just want to put in a plug for an email list for parents & other family members of children with cataracts or PHPV – it’s on Yahoo groups, and is called Aphakic. (While I’m the moderator, I receive no financial compensation of any kind.) By the way, my daughter is 8, going on 18, and is a very happy, well-adjusted, smart, enthusiastic young lady who just happens to wear very strong contacts & bifocals. 🙂