The Ghana Health Service, in partnership with the Himalayan Cataract Project, an international non-governmental organisation, has embarked on a National Cataract Project in an effort to eliminate blindness due to avoidable causes such as cataract from this country over the next five years.
The project, which began early this year, has already visited some parts of the Eastern Region, namely Suhum and Koforidua, and the Brong Ahafo Region where cataract surgeries were performed in Sunyani.
In the Greater Accra Region, the project has conducted eye surgeries at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and is currently based at the Ga West Municipal Hospital in Amasaman.
According to the Lead Surgeon on the project, Dr Boateng Wiafe, who is also the Technical Director for Operation Eyesight Universal, the common causes of visual impairment were refractive errors which required the need for spectacles and cataract.
"Other causes include an ageing population and the worldwide diabetes explosion, which means that blindness from eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma, for instance, are going to increase unless we act now," he said.
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The Amasaman outreach began on October 27 and will end on October 31.
Patients requiring surgery to remove cataracts from their eyes were picked from remote villages and hamlets in the Ga West Municipality and they comprised mainly the aged who were vulnerable to the disease.
About 200 people were expected to be operated upon within the period.
Meanwhile, a visit to the hospital revealed that 75 persons have had cataracts removed in one eye.
According to the Principal Nursing Officer at the Ga West Municipal Hospital, Madam Shirley Henaku, the programme had received enthusiastic response, with the only challenge being the lack of adequate space to accommodate the numbers.
She urged people still living with cataracts to take advantage of the programme and report to the hospital to have it removed.
"When the cataract is reported early, it makes working on them relatively easier and they will see clearly and be able to live by themselves thereafter and not be dependent on others for assistance.
"Everything about the programme is free from surgery to medication to transportation to the hospital and even for subsequent reviews until the patient is healed," she assured.
A patient, Madam Lily Buoku, said the surgery was painless and urged people with cataracts to report to the hospital early for treatment in order not to go blind.
"Now I can see clearly and much better than before," she said.
Another patient, Mr Enoch Owusu, said he was initially afraid due to rumours that the eye ball would be removed entirely, cleaned and put back. "So I wondered, what if it failed? But I mastered courage.
It was not what I heard at all. Now I see clearly and I urge others with cataracts to also step forward," he said.
The Himalayan Cataract Project for this year will end in December with a visit to some communities in the Northern Region.
According to Dr Wiafe, cost effective interventions exist for cataract and refractive errors, both of which account for 75 per cent of all avoidable blindness.
He said in Ghana out of the 210,000 people who were blind, 115,000 of them had cataract.