Land of the Blind

‘Seeing believes’ is a popular saying which makes sense to many people.

For others who have never had, or have lost the benefit of their sight organ, imagination does the magic for them.

People, especially, children who play blind have a fair idea the difficulty in navigating even familiar surroundings. Real and permanent blindness, however, certainly cannot be a pleasant game.

The stories of over 50 visually-impaired people, who live in a world they can only imagine at Tusuk and other surrounding communities near Bunkpurugu in the Northern Region, are nerve-wracking.

It is a sad what life has thrown at them, some permanently. They fear life may not treat them any better, which makes their impression about blindness more disturbing.

An American expert in human echolocation once said, “It is impressions about blindness that are far more threatening to blind people than blindness itself.”

Think a moment about your own impression about visually- impaired people; your reaction when you first saw a blind person.

“I was born healthy but within a week after my birth, I became blind. Since then, I have not had an opportunity to see how the world looks like,” Larry Maaso dejectedly explained.

Larry was born healthy and able. He led normal life until a few days later he lost his sight. The terror of blindness is incomprehensible to him and many others in similar condition at Tuusik and other communities.

“I wanted to become a public servant but here I am today futureless,” Larry says in a sad voice.

Larry looks and sounds unhappy when I enquired about his condition. From his head to toe, one will come to a conclusion that, Larry has a bigger goal he would have wished to accomplish before the blindness struck him.

Woma Laar’s story is also no different; he was blessed with the sense of seeing at birth. Suddenly, he went blind, a tragedy the family find difficult to come to terms with.

“I became blind and every attempt to seek treatment at the health facilities proved futile. I am now married with six children but I cannot cater for them because of my situation. Some of my children have enrolled themselves in schools,” says Laar.

The over 50 totally or partially blind people live among about 2000 people living in the Konchiangberuk Electoral area in Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo District.

It is near impossible to understand the scope of their challenge unless one has personal blindness experience or has had cope with helping a blind person.

Dubik Kukpaljin and her husband are also sightless. Dubik says life has been difficult for the entire family.

“Some of my children are in Kumasi in search of a better future because we cannot afford to take care of them,” he said.

Their understanding of a visually-impaired person is someone who came to the world to agonize and endure life haphazardly.

Nobody can tell what has caused the trouble. Some believe the misfortune has everything to do with spirituality. Assembly man for the area, Laar James Kabanu, has an idea.

According to Kabanu, major causes of the blindness are sickness and accident, both domestic and external.

He mentions prevalence of black flies in the communities around the forest zone is another factor that could cause blindness.

“During the rainy season, black flies invade the communities,” he says.

The Onchocerciasis Programme to curb the black fly in Northern Ghana ended years ago. If the Assemblyman’s explanation is anything to go by then the dangerous insect may not have completely been eliminated.

The visually-impaired try their best, ready for what the future has in store for them. When they step outside their immediate environment, movement is restrained.

Somehow, they learn to cope with their current situation life has thrown at them.

Their main means of livelihood is farming but they first have to be helped to maneuver their way to their farms all the time.

It also sad many of the blind people in Tusuk are all retired. Their farms are left unattended for some time because their children have to travel to other parts of the country to seek for greener pastures.

Larry and his colleagues strive to live a normal life in spite of their disability.

One of the residents expressed disappointment about the situation. He says the community’s labour force is under siege.

“Blindness has made this community weak and without any prospect. We could have done better in farming but the natural phenomenon is taking a toll on us’’.

Being born with disability is often a big challenge as a person has to learn to cope with it from childhood. The story must be different when disability strikes in the middle of one’s life.

Kombat Benson’s father was struck with blindness and since then, Benson has to always be at home to assist his dad.

He tells me it is difficult leaving them behind in the house adding, they cannot work and cannot take care of the children when he is out to work.

Being visually impaired is not a hurdle to a brighter future. One step at a time, and they hope to see a fulfilling life.

They may be visually impaired but it is not the end of their world, especially, if appropriate opportunities are offered for them to develop their capacity.

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