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27.01.2006 Health

Nine thousand Ghanaians suffer from Trachoma


Accra, Jan 27, GNA - About 9,000 Ghanaians suffering from various eye diseases require surgery, Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health said on Friday.

He described the situation as sad, and called for a continued and sustained advocacy health education and hygiene promotion activities, which he considered as paramount in effort to stem the tide. Major Quashigah said this at a press briefing on Trachoma Advocacy in Accra organized by the Ghana Health Service to sensitise the media's involvement in awareness programme on the trachoma eye disease and prevention mechanism with its gender dimensions and its implications. He said Trachoma was the leading cause of preventable blindness in the country and should be recognised as a disease of public Health Significance.

He said the most challenging aspect of eye care provision was the high level of blindness that resulted from lack of awareness to its prevention and that it was "awareness creation programmes must be given the utmost priority in the fight against preventable blindness". "Blindness culminates in unfortunate situations which incapacitate the victims to an extent that they cannot work or in cases where they can, work far below capacity, and this results in abject poverty most of the times", he added.

He called for the need to prevent eye diseases like trachoma, which was preventable and medical structures be put in place to offer comprehensive eye health care.

The Minister said government's efforts in equipping polyclinics to cater for simple eye diseases must be supported to make eye care services accessible and an essential part of primary healthcare. He said his sector was also extending inter-sector programmes to provide potable water for trachoma endemic communities, improving trachoma surveillance and expanding health education. Mr J.B Danquah-Adu, Deputy Minister for Women and Children's Affairs, called for the need to undertake cross-border initiatives to ensure total eradication of the disease, monitor the spread of disease to none prevalence areas and intensify education. "This calls for research, to monitor and evaluate the impact of various initiative".

Dr. Jacob Kumaresan, President of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) commended Ghana for the efforts put in place to eliminate trachoma.

"If Ghana meets the 2010 target date, it will do so 10 years before the target date for global elimination of blinding trachoma". He attributed Ghana's successful trachoma strategy to the result of a strong leadership from the Ghana Health Service and partnership with ITI and Pfzier, a pharmaceutical research firm. Pfizer has provided a support package of 1.89 billion dollars worth of Zithromax, a drug for the treatment of trachoma worldwide. In Ghana, Pfizer during the first phase of the ITI's programme from 2000 to2005 donated more than 1.3 million doses of Zithromax and would provide nearly 6 million doses in the future. 27 Jan. 06