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06.10.2005 General News

Rate of preventable blindness gets alarming

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Accra, Oct 6, GNA - It has been estimated that a child went blind every second because of Vitamin A deficiency, measles and other preventable eye infections, Dr Maria Hagan, Head, Eye Care Unit, Ghana Health Service, said on Thursday. She said in Ghana out of the 200,000 blind people, 8,000 were children and added that about 50 to 70 per cent of those children died within the first to second years of their lives due to complications.

Dr Hagan, who was speaking at a press briefing to mark this year's World Sight Day, which falls on October 13, said it was unfortunate that most people continued to apply various remedies in their quest to treat eye problems in children, leading to blindness. The celebrations under the theme: "Children, Our Future: Their Right to Sight-Focus on Refractive Errors," is expected to raise awareness about blindness and create favourable publicity for public involvement and ownership of prevention of blindness.

Dr Hagan said the estimated global number of 50 million blind people out of which 1.5 million are children was a worrying situation that needed serious attention of all governments and the society as a whole. She noted that 75 per cent of the global number of blind people lived in developing countries and though most of the cases were avoidable and could be treated, poverty and lack of knowledge had compounded the situation. She mentioned some of the treatable conditions as cataract, glaucoma, corneal diseases and refractive errors and said these situations could be repaired if medical attention was sought early.

Dr Hagan urged parents and teachers to study their children in order to identify such defects and report early for care and further advised pregnant women to eat well to ensure proper development of their babies. "It is important for pregnant and lactating mothers to observe proper feeding habits and ensure that they exclusively breast feed their babies within the first six months of life while ensuring good hygiene and keeping their babies healthy. Dr Hagan called for partnership and collaboration among the Government, nongovernmental organisations, health professionals and individuals in the provision of training, infrastructure and equipment for specialised eye care centres.

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