By Sola Ogundipe
WORRIED by the myriad of challenges confronting restoration of sight through corneal grafting also known as Keratoplasty, Nigerians have been urged to leave a legacy of sight by pledging their eyes before death. Making the call in Lagos, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Managing Director, the Eye Bank for Restoring Sight, Dr Mosunmade Faderin-Omotosho, said corneal blindness can be cured through corneal transplant by removing the damaged cornea and replacing it with a healthy one.
“The challenge is getting a suitable system for collection of the corneas, processing it and distributing to the doctors. Calling for enforcement of legislation while lamenting that majority of those that really need cornears cannot afford to pay, Faderin- Omotosho, said between last December and the 2nd week in January, four babies aged 8-11months with bilateral cornea infections, were referred to the Eye Bank.
Calling for counsellors to talk to people to donate their corneas, she said cornea transplants were first carried out in the late 60’s and early 70’s in Nigeria with corneas obtained from abroad, but such transplants are rarely done nowadays because donor corneas are not readily available. Presenting three beneficiaries of cornea surgery from the EYe Bank, she said: “When the Bank was to be registered, we had to get permission from Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“I have gone to see the Comptroller of Prisons in Nigeria, to see what we can do to harvest corneas, because I have been told that when a prisoner is condemned to death and executed, the body belongs to the government and not the family. “However, since 1999, after the military era has passed, no civilian governor has confirmed death penalties so now there are now several prisoners waiting on death row because no governor is ready to confirm their sentences,” Faderin-Omotosho remarked.
In a presentation themed: “Cornea Donation, A brighter World”, Chairman, Board of Trustees, of the Bank, Dr Olaseinde Akinsete, said with a blindness rate of 1 percent, 30 percent of the estimated 1.5 million Nigerians that are blind, have cornea problems and can benefit from cornea transplants.
Lamenting the non-effectiveness of the Cornea Grafting Decree 23 of 1973, Akinsete, who set up the Eye Bank on his 75th birthday, said cultural beliefs, religion and taboos are hindering the take off of the cornea donation culture in the country.
“Among factors responsible for the appalling situation in which we find ourselves in regard to restoration of sight through corneal grafting are lack of donor eyes and corneas, scarcity of Ophthalmologists interested in corneal grafting, remedial legislation and cultural, religious taboos amonst others, Akinsete pointed out.