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10.10.2008 Health

7.4 million Ghanaians may go blind if...

By Ghanaian Times
7.4 million Ghanaians may go blind if...

More than 7.4 million Ghanaians aged 30 years and above, representing 32.2 per cent of the population, are estimated to have glaucoma.

Statistics available also estimate that over 47,000 Ghanaians have been made blind by the disease, which has a prevalence rate of 570, 000 in the country.

Currently, there are about 220,000 Ghanaians made blind through various other causes such as trachoma, onchocerciasis (river blindness), childhood blindness, refractive errors and low vision.

Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly destroyed due to increased pressure inside the eye. This results in the blockage of circulation of aqueous fluid or its drainage.

Dr Oscar Debrah, Head of Eye Care Unit of the Ghana Health Service made this known at a press briefmg in Accra to mark this year's World Sight Day on Thursday.

The global theme for the celebration is "Eyes on the future-fighting vision impairment in later life", whilst the theme in Ghana is "Fight vision impairment in later life now".

World Sight Day is an international day of awareness held annually on the second Thursday of October to focus attention on the global issue of avoidable blindness and vision impairment.

Dr Debrah who is also the National Coordinator of the Blindness Prevention programme, said cataract refractive errors which were treatable, formed 50 per cent of all causes of blindness in the country with trachoma accounting for 15 per cent.

While these causes were preventable, he said glaucoma, diabetic re-tinopathy, sickle cell retinopathy forming 20 per cent of blindness, were more difficult to treat.

Dr Debrah said Ghana was ranked high among countries most affected by glaucoma, despite the fact that it was among the first to sign the declaration to support the World Health Organisation's Vision 2020: The right to sight campaign.

Dr Debrah who hinted that for every five seconds someone in the world goes blind, said 75 per cent of blindness was needless since it could be avoided either through preventable or curable means.
He said 161 million people had visual impairment worldwide, with 37 million of these in Sub-Sahara Africa.

Dr Debrah said of the 220,000 or so people in Ghana who were blind 50 per cent were treatable, 15 per cent preventable, 20 per cent more difficult to treat and 15 per cent representing others.

Dr Debrah said the few number of eye doctors in the country raised a major serious a concern that needed to be addressed to avert any future burden on the nation.

He said timely intervention could delay the effects of age-related blinding conditions, hence, the choice of Ghana's sub-theme for this year's celebration: "Eyes on the future: Fighting vision impairment in later life, now.'"

Nii Okai Nunoo, Area Head of Corporate Affairs; Standard Chartered Bank West Africa, said 90 per cent of avoidable blindness occurred in the developing world adding that loss of sight was a •serious challenge which needed serious attention.

He therefore called on corporate institutions to support government to address the problem of avoidable blindness so as to enhance development and to raise living standards.

He said the bank remained committed to leading the way in tackling the problem under its "Seeing is Believing" (Sib) initiative.

Mr Nunoo said so far the bank had invested close to US$500,000 in the initiative in the Eastern Region benefiting over one million people.

He said the bank intended to raise $20 million this year to fund eye care projects in 20 cities across the world to benefit 20 million people.