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General News of Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Source: GNA

Veep calls for action to eradicate blindness

Accra, Aug. 22, GNA - Vice President Aliu Mahama on Tuesday called for expedited action to reverse the national statistics, which indicated that one out of 100 Ghanaians was blind while three others were visually impaired.

He said although there was a National Health Programme in place the onus lied on vibrant ophthalmic services to end the scourge. Vice President Alhaji Mahama made the call at the Castle, Osu when he interacted with officials from ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital, currently engaged in a three-week eye-care programme in Ghana The world's only flying Eye Hospital is accommodated in a DC-10 jet aircraft.

Apart from delivering eye care the team is also training 18 local ophthalmologists, 18 ophthalmologist nurses and 34 bio-medical engineers in Ghana.

Vice President Alhaji Mahama said Ghana lacked the human resource to cater for ophthalmic services and appealed to the ORBIS officials to establish an office in Ghana to cater for West Africa and beyond. He asked ORBIS to help to provide ophthalmic equipment to the country, which he said was key to eye care services.

Dr Gladys Norley Ashitey, Deputy Minister of Health, who accompanied the Team, called on the media to be proactive in educating people about the causes, prevention and treatment of eye problems.

Dr Drew Boshell, Leader of the ORBIS Team, commended Ghana for improving on eye care services for the past 15 years, adding with the right equipment; blind eyes could be improved upon.

Speaking to the Ghana News Agency later he said timely care of eye problems was the panacea for blindness.

Dr Gordon Douglas, a member of the team, said 80 per cent of all blindness globally was unnecessary and called for proper sanitation to prevent the problem as well as prompt treatment especially for children.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 37 million people worldwide are blind, while 124 million are visually impaired. Ninety per cent of these people live in developing countries where quality vision is hard to come by.

According to the WHO 70 per cent of world blindness can be prevented or cured. Blindness is caused by conditions like cataract and could be treated quickly and cost effectively through surgery. ORBIS, a nongovernmental organisation started in 1982, offer public education about blindness, build political and public support for eradicating avoidable blindness and provides technical; material and financial assistance to improve access to ophthalmic services.

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