Ghana: Eye Operations for the Poor

Many people in rural areas become affected by cataracts and go blind because they have no money for an operation or they simply know nothing about the possible therapeutic treatments. The Presbyterian Church of Ghana visits those affected and restores their sight.

Ghana's Upper East region is one of the poorest regions in the country. About 88 per cent of the people there are classified as poor and therefore have little access to food, education and medical care. Doctors are a rare sight in rural regions and the majority of the population have never seen a doctor. Most of them turn to local traditional healers. Illiteracy is also high, which is why it is difficult to communicate to people the methods of suitable treatments.

No money for eye operations

All that makes it difficult to provide medical treatment in the Upper East Region. The regional eye centre of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana (PCG) has also been combating with these difficult circumstances for over twenty years. The centre tries to provide medical care to people in remote areas who can otherwise not afford a doctor. The church's new project aims at offering poor farmers eye operations free of charge to alleviate their suffering. About 90 per cent of people who go blind in the Upper East region suffer from cataracts. In most cases, a relatively simple ambulant operation stops the disease. But many people know nothing about this treatment or have no money to pay for it. The consequences for those afflicted are enormous. Their blindness makes them dependent on others so they can no longer lead an independent life, let alone work. This makes their poverty even worse and they become a burden on their relatives.

500 sufferers are selected

The PCG eye centre intends to treat 500 patients suffering from cataracts over the next two years. Local volunteers are responsible for selecting the sufferers. They select people who are in most urgent need of the operation. At the same time, the Ghanaian congregations will be sensitised to the possibilities of existing medical care by comprehensive information and dialogues. The next step will be to provide patients with medical check-ups to prepare them for the eye operation to follow. Also, the team provides the sufferers with free transport to the clinic. After the operation, the patients often have the feeling that an enormous weight has fallen from their shoulders. They can stand on their own feet again and restart work to earn some money. At the same time, they act as multipliers in their congregations to reduce cultural prejudices against modern medicine.

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