It is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO), that 161 million people have visual impairment worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, 27 million people are affected due to lack of access to education, health, employment and slow infrastructural development in low income countries.
As a matter of urgency, there is a call to identify blindness as an international public health and a socio-economic problem. This observation was made by the Head of the Eye Unit of the Ghana Health Service (GHS),Dr Oscar Debrah, at a news conference to mark World Sight Day in Accra, yesterday.
The programme, which was on the theme; 'Eye on the future fighting vision impairment in later life now', focused on the vision impairment in the aged as well as creating awareness to deal with the major causes of blindness.
In a presentation, Dr Debrah expressed concern about the low attention being paid to issues of eye care. He called for the needed investment to be made in training of eye care personnel to provide appropriate eye care service, as well as expand and integrate eye care service in all health centres across the country. According to Dr Debrah, it is estimated by the WHO that 80 percent of people who suffer blindness are between the ages of 45-50.He said the World Health Assembly Resolution last year, urged African countries to be committed to supporting the vision 2020 strategic policy on blindness.
Dr Debrah revealed that global productivity loss due to visual impairment amounted to US$ 24 billion by the WHO estimation. He observed that cataract, trachoma, glaucoma and retinopathy are the common eye diseases which are endemic in Ghana. Dr Debrah noted that eye health forms an intrinsic part of healthcare and called on individual institutions to join the fight on eye health.
The Greater Accra Regional Health Director of the GHS, Dr Irene Agyepong said, Ghana has adopted 2010 as a year to vigorously fight trachoma. She said the GHS will continue to raise the needed awareness to combat blindness in the country.