President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has acknowledged that while health care systems in most African countries including Liberia are on a path of recovery “There are many challenges still remaining in improving those health facilities, as well as for those people with disability, (especially) blindness.”
President Sirleaf made the acknowledgement recently in Durban, South Africa, where she delivered the keynote address at the 10th General Assembly of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). “We also face the high cost of equipment, which makes treatment a virtual impossibility, especially so for our low income and poorer citizens who cannot afford the resources to seek help abroad,” President Sirleaf told the gathering.
She said as a nation that is just recovering from 14 years of devastating civil war and two years of Ebola Virus disease outbreak, Liberia, in particular, lacks national plans to address eye health care problems in a “sustainable way, especially so since we face myriad of other developments challenges that sometimes takes higher premiums over eye health.”
President Sirleaf told the gathering that they, as leaders of these countries, have come to the realization that providing eye care services to address visual impairments “is an important dimension of our desire to build a comprehensive primary health care system.”
She told delegates that moreover, investment in eye health care services will contribute to growth and development by improving productivity and livelihood thereby restoring the dignity of many who face the threat of visual disorders.
She said the Liberian government seeks public-private-partnership with an organization like IAPB to stop and reverse the negative trends in the eye health care sub-sector.
She told her audience that the singular eye care resource that Liberia has is located in Monrovia, which according to her “means that majority of our citizens are unable to have access to this facility.”
However, President Sirleaf noted that her administration was pleased with ongoing collaborations with local and international partners, such as “Sight Savers, Lions International, and PREVAIL, a bilateral Liberian and American effort to provide comprehensive health care services, including conducting research and treatment for Ebola complications.
“In that regard, Liberia is exceptionally thankful for a partnership with the (LUV—PRASAD) Eye Institute (LUVPEI)) and I have been personally blessed with this partnership.
“My second son developed a sight impediment immediately after graduation from college and in 1979 had to have a cornea transplant in the United States. This was followed many years later by efforts to transplant in India.”
President Sirleaf noted that though the son in question is still faced with sight impediment, he has been able to continue to function in a high level professional position.
President Sirleaf noted that her son was very lucky to have been taken to the Prasad Eye Institute in India where he met the founding Chairman, Dr. Gag Rao, who inquired more about the situation of blindness in Liberia. President Sirleaf said after the treatment, Dr. Gag Rao sent a team to Liberia and decided that the institute would respond to such a national need.
“A few days ago, Dr. Rao and I inspected the modern facilities for eye care that has been established at our private rental referral hospital in the capital city, where a third of our population resides.” She said Dr. Rao is also supporting a robust training program in that direction.
“You can imagine the joy that has filled our hearts as citizens. The people of Liberia thank you, Dr. Rao,” said a grateful President Sirleaf on behalf of Liberians. (Source: Reliefweb.com).