Namibia: Family's Despair Over Baby Born Without Eyes

An unemployed mother of three says she lives with the constant pain of having to face a child who was born without eyes as she tries to make the best of life every day.

Martha Namweya (31) says she was gutted when she gave birth to Saara Ndakevondja, who has a rare condition called anophthalmia, which refers to the absence of one or both eyes.

Namweya, who stays with her mother and siblings at Olyavahenge village in the Omusati region, says she experienced abnormal symptoms during her pregnancy, which left her concerned for the welfare of her unborn child.

"When I was pregnant with Saara I would get abnormal bumps on both my eyes, my head and underarms, but it never came to me that she has a condition," says Namweya.

She says she will never be able to forget the moment one of the nurses present during Saara's birth told her she has given birth to a blind baby.

Namweya says she has made peace with the fact that her daughter will never be able to see.

"I have never seen anybody suffer from this condition before. It was a shock not only to myself, but my family as well," she says.

Namweya says she does not know how to help her daughter.

She says being unemployed and staying at a remote village is not easy.

"I did not attend all the screenings during pregnancy, because I could not afford to go to the hospital all the time, and Saara's father was unemployed at the time," Namweya says.

Tangeni Ndakevondja, the baby's father, says elders in his family told him his grandmother's sister was also born with no eyeballs.

"This was something so new to me ... I have made peace with it and am accepting my daughter for who she is," he says.

Ndakevondja says when his daughter arrived home from the hospital, he hoped she would open her eyes like other babies.

Ophthalmologist Helena Ndume says anophthalmia is a genetic condition which causes the arrested development of the eye.

"This condition is normally caused by certain medication, radiation, X-rays and viruses," she says.

Ndume says the condition is rare and it is impossible for a person with it to have eyesight.

Ndume advises pregnant women, especially in the early stages of pregnancy, to avoid medication, radiation and X-rays.

"From the day the egg is fertilised at least up to 10 to 15 weeks women have to be careful, because it is a critical time of development," she says.

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