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21.08.2004 General News

Blind Boy, 9, Refused U.S. Visa

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The alleged persistent refusal of the United States of America (USA) Embassy in Accra to grant a nine-year-old boy a visa to travel to the USA for urgent medical attention has pushed the boy very close to permanent visual impairment.

Even a letter dated July 27, 2004, signed personally by the Minister of health, Dr. Kwaku Afriyie on the a Republic of Ghana (ministry of health) letterhead requesting the embassy to grant the boy's application for visa could not convince consular officers at the embassy to issue the sick boy with the visa. The consultant ophthalmologist at the eye department of the Korle Bu teaching hospital, Dr. S.K. Akafo, diagnosed George Quarcoo as suffering from Severe Johnson's Syndrome with Extensive Symblepharon in both eyes. According to a medical report dated February 6, 2004, a copy of which was submitted with the visa application forms to the embassy, the boy also suffers from Bilateral Ankyloblepharon and Bilateral Corneal Oedema condition of the eyes. The report said George developed Steven Johnson's sysdrome in November last year following a ferbrile illness treated with chloroquine and paracetamol.

During the course of treatment, the eyesight progressively deteriorated resulting in his present condition. Dr. Akafo declared that “there is no further treatment available in Ghana which will arrest the progression of the disease and improve the vision of the young boy. This compelled the family of the boy to seek the assistance of the USA embassy to fly him to the Ocular Surface Centre in Miami, Florida, USA for urgent and specialized medical attention.

The visa refusal note given to George suggested that he and the person accompanying him to the US did not have strong economic ties most likely to compel them to return to Ghana after the treatment or that they did not demonstrate exceptionally strong family and social ties.

An official at the ministry of heath, Dr. Kofi Ahmed, expressed shock at the fact that the boy was still in town days after the scheduled date for his surgery in America. Dr. Ahmed added that the health minister would usually not get involved in such cases. “He always refers them to the ministry of foreign affairs but George's case was an exception, hence his decision to get involved. It is quite clear that the embassy has disregarded the minister's request”, he pointed out.

When the US embassy in Accra was contacted, Ms Susan Parker-Burns said she did not have any comments immediately, adding that, “I will need sometime to contact the consular section for more information on the matter.

In a chat with young George, whose terminal examination reports show that he is academically brilliant, he told newsmen that he wants to be a medical doctor in future and needs his sight back to study in order to realise his dream. He is a class four pupil of the Good Home School, Odorkor, Accra.

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