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‘25,000 Ghanaians with visual impairment have cornea defects’

More than 25,000 per­sons suffering from visual impairment in Ghana have cornea defects.

The number represents 11.2 per cent of the country’s total blind population which stands at 330,000 per the last national population based prevalence survey.

This came to light at an inau­gural cornea transplant summit in Accra on Friday, organised by the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) and the Ophthalmologist Society of Ghana on the theme: ‘paving the way to cure corneal blindness in Ghana.’

The summit sought to push for parliamentary approval for eye cornea transplant and establishment of cornea banks in Ghana.

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Bringing together stakeholders including traditional leaders, clergy, health professionals, academia and survivors, the summit emphasised the need for immediate legislation of the procedure to reduce the high incidence of cornea related blind­ness in the country.

The presidential advisor on health, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, in a remark noted that the number of persons suffering from the ailment negatively affected the workforce of the country which in the long term would affect socio-economic development.

He disclosed that corneal blindness was curable, however, the absence of cornea tissues for the transplantation had left several persons blind in one eye or blind in both eyes.

“The importance of corneal transplantation legislation and the promotion of eye and organ dona­tion is therefore crucial to achieving total socio-economic transforma­tion of the unfortunate patients and the nation for health is wealth,” he said.

Dr Nsiah-Asare called for further review of the proposed Ghana national guidelines for human organs /tissues donations and transplantations to stream­line the processes for quality in donations, storage and transplan­tations of human organs and tissues in the country.

He explained that tissue donation had taken off in many countries in a very successful way, hence the need for Ghana to follow suit to shore up the survival rates of patients through tissue and organ transplantations.

Dr Nsiah-Asare pledge to ensure that the legislation on tissue donations and transplant was passed within the shortest possible time.

The Technical Advisor, Dr Boateng Wiafe in his presenta­tion on “the burden of corneal blindness in Ghana” noted that blindness from corneal disease was a major ophthalmic public health concern, as it dispropor­tionately affected poor and rural communities.

He added that although more than 25,000 people suffered from the disease, about 10,000 people were blind in one eye, hence the need to put the necessary legisla­tion in place to harvest corneas for transplant.

On the causes of the disease, he said that infections and inflammato­ry eye diseases such as “keratitis, xe­rophthalmia, eye trauma, congenital disease and home remedies” were responsible.

Dr Wiafe added that “significant social and logistical barriers, a lack of trained corneal surgeon and absence of eye banking infrastruc­ture” were the barriers to success­ful corneal transplantation in the country.

A Beneficiary of Cornea Trans­plant, Mr Prince Owusu Banahene Sarkodie, appealed to the govern­ment to fast-track the legislation for tissue and organ transplanta­tion as more people were suffering from the disease, and few people were receiving treatment.

He commended the govern­ment for the inclusion of the treatment onto the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), whilst calling for a review to include all medication and associated treat­ment.

 BY ABIGAIL ANNOH & JESSEL LARTEY THERSON-COFIE

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