What a great week for Operation Eyesight, and for the people of Ghana!
On Wednesday, we opened a brand-new facility to replace the old Watborg Eye Services clinic, which is located in the Awutu Senya District, just outside Ghana’s capital city, Accra. As you can imagine, the completion of a significant capital project like this is cause to celebrate. Finally, after years of planning and months of construction and equipping, this hospital is ready to go.
From my perspective as vice-president of our International Programs, I can tell you that the original clinic was well used, serving a population of over one million. But it was too small and worn out, and not able to meet the critical needs of these residents. Ghana has a population of 23 million, of which more than 200,000 are blind, mostly from avoidable causes. With increased space, more well-trained doctors and nurses, and the latest equipment, the new facility is going to make a major dent in those statistics, both in the areas of treatment and prevention.
Dr. Boateng Wiafe, the talented surgeon and administrator who directs all our projects in Africa, has been closely associated with Watborg for many years. You can imagine how thrilled he is to finally have better tools to do the job. The hospital is staffed and equipped to treat a wide range of eye problems according to international standards of excellence – offered to all, regardless of their ability to pay. It will also provide training programs, outreach eye screening for school children, and education to increase the awareness of blindness as a major public health issue.
In these and other ways, the Watborg hospital is truly unique, and will serve as a model that can be replicated in other African countries. I know it will have a huge impact on the availability and quality of eye care throughout West Africa.
Dr. Wiafe is pleased with the way the surrounding community was involved in the process, and how it will benefit in many practical ways. Here’s what he had to say:
“The Awutu Senya District is one of the newly created districts in Ghana. The district has some health centres, but the new and expanded Watborg Eye Services is the first eye hospital in the district. Just by opening up this area, we have increased development activities in the area. Besides the construction, Operation Eyesight put in the access road, and brought in water and electricity. So even before the facility has officially opened, it has activated the community.
“We envision this facility will provide quality eye care to the district. Formerly, residents would have to travel long distances to access eye care services, but now this barrier has been removed. The Institute will provide employment for some of the residents in the area. Already, a restaurant has been opened at the junction where the access road joins the highway, and we anticipate some shops and services will open. Taxi services will start coming to the facility, to bring patients.
“The community will also benefit from eye health education. The district director of health has already started using the Institute to train nurses and midwives as well as the volunteers on eye health. This will trickle down to the community so that they will all enjoy healthy eyes.”
Of course, none of this could happen without generous donors. Next week I’d like to tell you about the family from Calgary that made it all possible. We should have some more photos then too. Stay tuned…