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 Health  Ghana Project #5195

Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana

by Himalayan Cataract Project, Inc.
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana
Outreach Eye Camps in Ghana

Successful cataract campaign provides 481 sight-restoring surgeries.

Working with partners from the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi and the Tamale Teaching Hospital in Tamale, the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) completed our largest cataract outreach in Ghana, to-date. A record 481 sight-restoring surgeries were provided during a high-volume cataract outreach event in Bolgatanga, Ghana from November 12-18.

Dr. John Welling, who serves as HCP’s Medical Coordinator for Ghana, oversaw the talented surgical team including Dr. Mercy Dawson, Dr. Akwasi Ahmed, Dr. Abigail Nyarko and Dr. Judith Simon along with HCP Affiliated Ophthalmologists Dr. Sam Farmer and Dr. Scott McClintic. HCP Country Representative Dr. Oscar Debrah and the Head of Ghana Eye Care Services, Dr. James Addy managed all of the planning and logistics, and without whom the event could not have taken place.

Finally, HCP was also lucky to have a great group of volunteers from Alder Security, based in Orem, Utah, who provided support to the surgical teams and captured some of the beautiful photos provided here. 

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Cataract patient in Ghana, Mary
Cataract patient in Ghana, Mary

Meet Mary, a bilaterally blind 79 year-old farmer and widow from Ekumfi, a town in the central region of Ghana where her life revolved around her six children and farming. But farming wasn’t just her livelihood, she loved and had a passion for it. Unfortunately, due to loss of vision brought on by cataracts in both eyes, she was forced to give up farming.

“My entire life and the sustaining of my family was through this business of farming. It is more or less like a hobby to me, even though people consider it as work. I really missed that part of my life. Another thing is that it is a tradition for the family to come together twice a year to meet and discuss issues. During this occasion, I get the opportunity to see my grandchildren and the new born babies who have joined the family. Because of my condition, I could no longer enjoy those moments with my grandchildren. Not only did [cataracts] rob me of my sight, but it also robbed me of my joy and happiness.”

Mary shared that she started experiencing blurred vision, headaches and itching in both eyes a year and a half after her husband passed away. Unfortunately, according to Mary, nobody paid attention to her complaints until one day she fell while she was walking. That was when her family realized her condition had worsened and her children took her to an eye clinic in nearby Esikuma, but she received no diagnosis.

According to Mary’s children, another organization came to do free eye screenings in Esikuma and recommended some eye drops, but Mary’s symptoms did not improve. Still determined to find a solution, the family reached out to a friend who also had cataracts and recently had her sight restored by HCP Partner, Dr. Boateng Wiafe, his team from Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and HCP Global Eye Health Partner, Operation Eyesight at an outreach in Saltpond. She was directed to go to the next outreach in Saltpond, where they screened and diagnosed her with bilateral cataracts and scheduled her for surgery.

Although nervous at first, after counseling and speaking to Dr. Boateng, Mary was confident that she would regain her sight. Her surgery was successful and her vision was restored in both eyes. She is now able to move around independently and hopes to return to farming once she is completely healed. In the meantime, she is enjoying spending much more time with her family.

“I am happy because now I am able to visit my children and spend time with them, as well as with my grandchildren, especially those who have moved to other regions due to their jobs or other reasons.” 

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The vitreoretinal (VR) hospital-based program at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Ghana represents the culmination of a collaborative and multi-year effort between KATH, HCP, Moran Eye Center, USAID, Alcon, and the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The three week training program started with a week of surgical retina, led by partners from the Moran Eye Center, including HCP Affiliated Ophthalmologist Dr. Paul Bernstein and former HCP International Fellow Dr. Eric Hansen. Also in attendance was Echo Cluff from The Eye Institute of Utah and Kelvyn Els from Envision Africa.

During the week and with support from the master trainers, Dr. Amos Aikins and Dr. Akwasi Ahmed - the two Ghanaian physicians trained in vitreo-retina - provided eighteen retinal surgeries at KATH. These 18 surgeries represent the first retinal surgeries performed outside of Ghana’s capital of Accra.

With HCP support, both Drs. Aikins and Ahmed received vitreo-retina subspecialty training at the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, HCP’s flagship training partner, and at University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center (through an observership). Nurses from KATH have also benefited from specialized nurse training in retina at both institutions. The consortium of partners, including HCP, Alcon and USAID, have provided specialized ophthalmic equipment and supplies for the subspecialty. In addition, the Alcon Foundation supported the training of Dr. Ahmed.

Medical and surgical retina care are integral to KATH’s emergence as a tertiary eye center and comprehensive center of excellence serving the Ashanti region of Ghana. Retinal care is particularly important to KATH due to the prevalence of retina-related medical issues in the region including sickle cell trait and disease, diabetes, infections such as toxoplasmosis and HIV, and traumatic eye injuries. The need for quality vitreoretinal services was identified early in the partnership between KATH, Moran and HCP. This three-week hands-on training program was planned in coordination with Dr. Ahmed’s return to KATH, following training, and was intended to not only provide critical patient care but also surgical training in his home facility.

The training program sought to achieve the following primary objectives:

  • Ensure KATH is fully operational and capable of providing vitreoretinal surgery
  • Provide follow-up hands-on training in the trainees’ home facility to ensure continuity of training
  • Provide meaningful skills and knowledge transfer for surgical and clinical retinal care
  • Assess landscape surrounding retinal services in Kumasi and identify barriers, needs and opportunities for continued development
  • Provide an adequate platform for success in anticipation of the subsequent training program with Dr. Govinda Pauydal from Tilganga and other visiting faculty.

*Items from this report from the field were provided by Dr. Eric Hansen


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Partnerships matter!
Partnerships matter!

The Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi hosted the 2018 Ghana Stakeholders Meeting at the end of January bringing together HCP partners working in Ghana and supporting KATH’s efforts to improve eye care. As the Himalayan Cataract Project continues to broaden our efforts in Ghana, ever expanding our collaboration with KATH, Orbis and the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, opportunities to strengthen our collective work are invaluable. We accomplish far more by leveraging partnerships than any single entity on its own.

During this three day summit, presentations were given by HCP Staffers and In-Country Personnel, KATH Eye Unit Department Heads, and representatives from Orbis and the Moran Eye Center. Presenters included HCP Chief of Program Administration, Pamela Clapp; Ophthalmologist at the Moran Eye Center and former HCP International Fellow, Dr. Eric Hansen; Head of the KATH Eye Clinic and Cornea Specialist, Dr. Seth Lartey; Orbis International Africa Country Representative, Dr. Maria Hagan; and Residency Program Director and Medical Retina Specialist at KATH, Dr. Amos Aikins.

HCP has worked in Ghana for 11 years, with over 300,000 patients served and over 22,000 surgeries provided by our partners. In 2017, HCP saw a steady increase in outreach and hospital-based surgeries as well as training opportunities with a focus on strengthening the Residency Program.

In 2018, HCP hopes to add five new partners to support the National Cataract Outreach Program, double outreach surgery targets from 3,500 to 7,000 and continue to invest in infrastructure. 

Entrance to Agogo Hospital in Ghana
Entrance to Agogo Hospital in Ghana
Head Nurse Gifty giving presentation
Head Nurse Gifty giving presentation
HCP Chief of Program Administration, Pamela Clapp
HCP Chief of Program Administration, Pamela Clapp
Patient seen during a site visit
Patient seen during a site visit
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HCP Ghanaian Partners complete two successful cataract campaigns, providing 619 sight restoring surgeries

In November, HCP supported two cataract outreach campaigns in Ghana. The first outreach was held in the western region of Ghana, in Sefwi-Wiawso and Tarkwa. Led by Dr. Boateng Wiafe, who is also affiliated with Canadian NGO Operation EyeSight Universal, 175 surgeries were performed, including 5 pediatric surgeries. The following is a short patient story captured at this outreach:

Maame had been bilaterally blind for over 2 years. She resisted having to travel far away from home to get treatment at the outreach. When her children brought her, she only agreed to have her left eye operated on. After her surgery she was able to see her 2 year old granddaughter for the first time. Filled with joy, she asked to be added to the list of patients the following day to have the cataract in her right eye removed. Pledged to return with four friends from her village who needed surgery, and she thanked everyone who made it possible for people like her to regain their sight.

The second outreach effort was in Keta, located in the Volta Region of Ghana, and we had our largest outreach in Ghana to date providing 444 sight restoring surgeries, November 13 - 17! 

This outreach was led collaboratively by teams from Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) and Korle Bu Teaching Hospital including Dr. Frimpong, Dr. Raymond, Dr. Aikins, Dr. Fordjour, HCP super volunteer James Garrett and HCP Affiliated Ophthalmologist Dr. John Welling. We were also lucky to have a wonderful group of guests and volunteers from Alder Security, based in Orem, Utah, who provided support to the surgical teams and captured the beautiful photos provided here. The group included CEO Adam Schanz, Mitch Hamilton, James Edwards, Nathan Schanz, Jake Dahl and Photographer Kevin Cox. James Edwards had this to say about his experience:

“My experience in Ghana with HCP was nothing short of life changing. I knew before hand we would be working hard and with a lot of people who live in poverty. I had no idea that meant starting our day before the sun rises and ending it well past when the sun sets, working with hundreds and hundreds of men, women and children. Hoards of people came from all over to see these doctors in hopes of fixing their eyesight. Witnessing their hope and eagerness to see again was inspiring. Just as amazing as these people coming from all over the country was that the doctors performing these cataract surgeries would sit in the operating room for hours on end. Never leaving their station. Working relentlessly and consistently in getting as many eye surgeries done as possible. I was blown away with these doctors commitment to these people that they didn’t know. It was one of the most beautiful and self sacrificing things I’ve ever seen. It gave me a huge desire to come out and do this again. I can’t explain the amount of gratitude I had for being apart of this and working with these people. It’s beyond words. I can’t wait to do it again.”


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Organization Information

Himalayan Cataract Project, Inc.

Location: Waterbury, VT - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @CureBlindness
Project Leader:
Geoff Tabin
Waterbury, VT United States
$33,817 raised of $50,000 goal
167 donations
$16,183 to go
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