By Christabel Addo/ Racheal Dwamena, GNA
Accra, Oct. 13, GNA – Ghana’s prevalence of blindness has been estimated at 0.74 per cent, which translates into the fact that there are currently more than 190,000 blind people in the country.
Dr James Addy, who is the Head of the Eye Care Unit of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), said the statistics was confirmed after the Ghana Blindness and Visual Impairment Study was conducted by the Service in collaboration with other development partners in 2015.
He said the study also showed that prevalence of blindness among those within 50 years and above was 4.0 per cent and increased to 19.12 per cent among 80 years and above.
Males were more affected than females.
He said four out of five Ghanaians were found to be blind from causes such as untreated cataract, glaucoma diabetic retinopathy and corneal related causes, which could have been avoided.
‘For the people who were blind from cataract, 43 per cent were unaware that cataract could be treated by surgery’, he said.
Again, it was found out that the major cause of low vision were refractive error, which account for 44.4 per cent, and sadly out of these group who needed to wear spectacles, only five per cent were using their glasses, leaving the remaining 95 per cent who must use it for correctional vision not doing so.
Dr Addy was addressing a press conference to commemorate the 2016 World Sight Day, which falls on the second Thursday in October.
He said even though the global theme was on: ‘Universal Eye Health’, the focus nationally was on the hash tag: ‘# Stronger Together’, which was an action call for joint stakeholder involvement in awareness creation and ensuring greater access to quality eye care services.
‘We have to think of all groups of people who engage with eye care: ophthalmologists, optometrists, ophthalmic nurses, opticians, donors, patients, carers and the wider family’, he said.
He said continued success could only be maintained if stakeholders worked together to raise public awareness of blindness and Vision Impairment as a major international public health issues.
He asked Ministry of Health to participate in, as well as designate funds for national blindness prevention programmes.
He said such joint efforts could also improve education for target audiences about blindness prevention about Vision 2020 and to generate support for the programme’s activities.
Dr Addy said in spite of the heavy burden of the problem of eye diseases, there were only a 1,117 eye care professionals for the more than 8 million Ghanaians who needed care, which was woefully inadequate to achieve the universal coverage, anticipated where the goal of Global Action Plan 2014 to 2019 is expected to be achieved.
Dr Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyirah, the Director-General of the GHS said Government and donor partners including the Operation Eyesight Universal, Swiss Red Cross, Sightsavers and Orbis-Africa have over the years supplied all the regions with the needed logistics and equipment to facilitate the work of eye care professionals.
He said the global presentation was very frightening as approximately 285 million people now live with low vision and blindness, and of which 39 million are blind and 246 million have moderate or severe visual impairment.
Out of these figure 90 per cent of blind people live in low income countries, yet 80 per cent of visual impairment was avoidable and readily treatable.
The Director General said restoration of sight and blindness prevention strategies were among the most cost-effective interventions in health care, and encouraged Ghanaians to test regularly to avoid irreversible blindness that could have been prevented if diagnosed earlier.
He said in the coming months and years, attention would be focused on outreach services to underserved areas, cataract surgical outcome monitoring to ensure quality of surgeries, diabetic retinopathy screening for all client at the diabetic clinics across the country, as well as enhance pediatric ophthalmology in teaching, regional and district hospitals.