Ghana Health Service and the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana with support from HCP, Cure Blindness hosted the second Annual Corneal Transplant Summit under the theme “ELIMINATING CORNEAL BLINDNESS IN GHANA: THE TIME IS NOW FOR HUMAN ORGAN AND TISSUE LAW”. The summit sought to raise awareness of the high prevalence of corneal blindness and low availability of donor corneas in Ghana, share experiences and challenges for other countries that have successfully developed and implemented tissue donation laws and policies, and strengthen a platform for dialogue and advocacy to influence policy makers and legislators to enact, adopt and implement effective eye tissue donation law in Ghana.

The Organ and Tissue Donation Bill seeks to establish a Human Organ and Tissue Authority (HOTA) to oversee and manage organ and tissue donation, create a national registry of donors and recipients, protect their rights and interests, and ensure ethical and legal standards.

In his keynote address, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Presidential Advisor on Health, highlighted the crucial role of law in promoting eye health in Ghana. He stated that out of the 250,000 visually impaired individuals in the country, 11 percent were affected by corneal defects which he described as a silent epidemic. The doctor emphasized that although the cornea was essential for vision, diseases, injuries and infections could damage its sensitive tissue leading to irreversible blindness.

Furthermore, Dr Nsiah-Asare pointed out that inadequate public awareness about corneal transplantation coupled with insufficient donor pools and infrastructure posed significant challenges to addressing this issue effectively.

Corneal transplantation is not just a medical procedure. It offers a priceless gift of sight, allowing individuals to see their loved ones, appreciate the beauty of life, and contribute actively to society.

Dr. Nsiah-Asare called for public awareness campaigns, collaboration with international organizations, and investment in training and infrastructure to transform lives and restore vision to those suffering from corneal blindness.

For his part, the Country Director for HCP Cureblindness, Dr. James Addy, in a remark, noted that vision loss does not only reduce employment prospects but also one’s ability to engage in other aspects of life, leading to underutilization of a life’s potential. He added that with the absence of a law to legalize organ donation, the majority of Ghanaians who are corneal blind will never see again.

With the Human Organ and Tissue Bill in place, it would help facilitate other medical procedures such as kidney transplantation and organ donations to end the referral of patients to foreign countries or await importation of organs and tissues for the action.

Dr. Addy emphasized that with around 26,000 people in Ghana awaiting corneal transplants, there was an urgent need for a law that ensured fair and transparent organ and tissue donation while protecting the rights and interests of donors and recipients and upholding ethical and legal standards.

Although Ghana has made significant strides in enhancing its eye care services over the past decade by upgrading infrastructure and building capacity among health personnel, there are still 23,000 Ghanaians who suffer from blindness while another 330,000 experience severe vision loss. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that corneal blindness can be remedied through transplant surgery as long as healthy tissues are available.