Regaining His Confidence: UXO Survivor Receives a Prosthetic Eye

August 15th, 2022 | Stories


After that UXO accident, it took my left eye. I am seeing the world in half and I feel embarrassed and did not want to go outside, plus my damaged eye was really sensitive to the sun and got easily infected. However, when the CBID team came along with the local health authorities and I got transferred to the provincial hospital for surgery, that day it changed my life.” – Tounkham

Tounkham is an 18 year-old who lives in Xiengkhouang province, Laos. Like many teenagers of his age, Tounkham is full of energy and ambition, and wants to pursue higher education. As the eldest son in the family, he has to look after his two siblings and help with household chores. 

His teenage life has been anything but ordinary, though. In 2016, just after turning 11 years old, Tounkham accidentally touched an unexploded ordnance (UXO). A few seconds later it exploded and shrapnel injured his hand and face. He lost his left eye and two fingers. Tounkham continued to go to school, but as he got older, the curiosity from his neighbors and peers at school about his change in appearance became a challenge, and he was scared to face negative attitudes. Becoming increasingly shy and staying home more often, he became discouraged from participating in the community like he once did. Tounkham’s parents tried their best to take care of his health, encourage him to be more confident and participate in social activities, and resume his education.

When he was 18, the head of Tounkham’s village identified him to the USAID Okard Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) team. Through case management, the CBID team referred him to the Provincial Hospital to assess his eye health and vision. Tounkham’s left eye was unable to see anything and was very sensitive to light and bacteria, so he was advised to have surgery to replace it with a prosthetic eye. In February of 2022, they successfully completed the surgery. Tounkham now lives his life with a new prosthetic eye and glasses to improve the vision of his right eye and protect it from sunlight. This significantly boosted his confidence to focus on his education and participate in social activities. Tounkham hopes to continue his studies in Information Technology after his high school graduation.

Psychosocial support is important in the recovery process following a UXO accident. If Tounkham and his family are interested, the CBID team will explore opportunities for him to engage with a peer to peer supporter who has experienced a similar accident to help him process what happened. His family will also be consulted and supported so they can better assist him physically and mentally through Okard’s caregiver training, Social and Behavior Change Communication’s Group Discussion, and Self Help Groups.

The story of Tounkham, like other beneficiaries, is what really drives me to do my best job as CBID Facilitator everyday, seeing their before and after progression really shakes to the core that our work here is done with the good support from the local authorities and now the community clearly knows about the health referral pathway to receive the support that they need.” – Toumkham, QLA CBID Facilitator

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