A human eye that received a cornea transplant. The Gauteng department of health is appealing to community members to donate corneas as South Africa is plunged into a shortage. File Picture: Megor1
A human eye that received a cornea transplant. The Gauteng department of health is appealing to community members to donate corneas as South Africa is plunged into a shortage. File Picture: Megor1

Gauteng health authorities appeal for cornea donations amidst major shortage

By Jonisayi Maromo Time of article published Oct 15, 2021

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Pretoria – The Gauteng department of health has appealed to community members to register and donate organs and tissue, including corneas, as facilities that perform transplants in South Africa are now importing corneas from the United States at a hefty price.

As South Africa joined the world in marking World Sight Day on Thursday, Gauteng department of health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said there is a crippling shortage of donated corneas in the country, which makes transplants impossible to visually impaired and blind people who need the corneas.

“Have you ever wondered how difficult it must be not to be able to see the colour of your summer dress or watch and admire the beauty of the sunset after a long day? This is the reality of people who have lost their sight. Many people can regain their sight through a corneal transplant,” said Kekana.

“However, this is not possible due to shortage of donated corneas in the country. Today (Thursday), as we mark World Sight Day, the Gauteng department of health (GDoH) encourages the public to register to donate organs and tissues such as corneas.”

World Sight Day is observed annually to raise awareness and put attention on vision impairment, including blindness. This year, the day was observed under the theme: “Love Your Eyes”.

Kekana said various corneal transplants are performed at public healthcare facilities include those for perforated corneal ulcers and elective transplants.

“These are generally performed for poor vision that is commonly due to corneal scarring or keratoconus (protrusion of the cornea). Currently, various facilities that specialise in corneal transplants import them from the United States of America, where they are available at a cost of about R20-30 000 each cornea,” she said.

In addition, the Gauteng department of health encouraged community members to also register to donate organs and tissue including, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas.

“Those who wish to donate organs should share their last wishes with their direct family members, as they need to give consent to organ donation at their time of death,” said Kekana.

“To donate an organ one can register with organ donation foundation www.odf.org.za.”

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