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07.03.2005 Regional News

Oncho Devastates Krachi East

By Chronicle

... Family of 5 rendered blind, 100 others visually impaired

Onchocerciasis, known commonly as river blindness, has taken a devastating toll on the people of Asukawkaw and its environs in the newly created Krachi East District, in the Volta region.

Hundreds of citizens and residents of the area have been rendered blind permanently while others continue to nurse a temporary visual impairment without any hope of having their sight situation restored to normal.

The infestation is so alarming that it appears to be a common thing to find one or two blind people in virtually every household in the Asukawkaw area. The situation is however more pitiful in the case of the family of 74-year old Mr. Simon Wiafe Tutu.

Mr. Tutu, a one time pupil teacher, together with his 62-year old wife, Leticia Wiafe and all their three children have been blinded by the disease which, local residents have attributed to the heavy presence of the oncho-causing black flies, in the area.

Messrs. Isaac Wiafe Tutu, 47, Bernard Wiafe, 44, and Madam Joyce Wiafe, 41, who are the three children of Mr. and Mrs. Tutu, say they became blind through onchocerciasis about a decade ago while their parents had been blind for almost two decades now.

The young men and the woman became blind one after the other while their parents had already been caught up in the same predicament years before and at a time when they had assumed the responsibility of taking care of them.

The subsequent blindness of the children therefore rendered the family a begging one, as none could fend for the other.

The paper's enquiries in the area showed that, the problem had been with the people of the area for quite a long time now, as such the situation where people became blind was now seen, virtually as a normal occurrence in the area.

Other towns where the paper learnt about a high infestation rate were, Okaniase, Akokrowa, Katanga and Adonkwanta, all in the Krachi East District, with Dambai as the capital.

Most of the people who spoke to The Chronicle about the problem, identified, as the major cause of the alarming nature of the infestation, lack of concern on the part of both the past and present government in finding a solution to the problem.

In an interview, a Principal Assistant Registrar of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and a former Assemblyman for the Asukawkaw electoral area, Odeefuo Nana Wiafe- Akenten, pointed out that the health canker that had engulfed the area had become so serious that government needed to embark upon a proactive measure to find an immediate solution to the problem.

Nana Wiafe- Akenten noted that if the problem was not tackled immediately with all the urgency it required, more than half the total population of the people in the area was likely to become blind or suffer from various degrees of visual impairment within the next couple of years.

The CHRAJ senior officer explained that the situation was compounded by the fact that majority of the people in the area were peasant farmers who could not afford the cost for the treatment of the disease and consequently decide to leave their destinies in the hands of God when they contract the disease.

He further cited lack of medical facilities in the area, as another reason for which the number of people suffering from sight problems in the area kept on increasing at a very fast rate. "The only health facility in the whole area is the one located at Dambai and even that one is not a hospital but a health centre," the human rights worker pointed out.

Nana Wiafe-Akenten appealed to the Government to consider establishing a special "anti- Oncho" health facility in the newly created district to help deal with the situation.

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