Legislation to improve availability of corneal transplant underway

Nairobi November 23, 2019 – The  Ministry of Health is putting in place appropriate legislation to improve the availability and access to the corneal transplantation services, together with other organ donation and transplant services through a bill tabled in parliament.
Plans are also underway with other government agencies such as NHIF to ensure inclusion of corneal transplantation in the benefit package.
The disclosure was made today by the Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki during the celebrations of the Eye Bank 10 years of successful Corneal transplant in East Africa at the Lions Sight First Eye Hospital in Loresho, Nairobi.
“Adoption of advanced technology “Cross Linking Technology” in the diagnosis and treatment of some eye diseases like Keratoconus will save us time and money by fore-stalling the need for corneal transplantation,” the CS said.
She observed that in the last one year, about 400 Kenyans have received corneal transplant across the country at various institutions namely Lions Sight First Hospital, Tenwek Hospital, Light House for Christ Hospital In Mombasa, Kikuyu Eye Hospital, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Upper Hill Eye and Laser Centre and Kisii Eye Hospital among others.
“My Ministry has reported that about 600 individuals are on the waiting list in these centers. These numbers however, understate the existing burden as they represent less than 1% of the estimated need,”she said.
Eye disease affecting the cornea, glass-like part of the eye-ball is the third leading cause of blindness, affecting almost 8 million people globally.
In Kenya, about 75,000 persons have corneal diseases, who are in need of corneal transplant services, to prevent them from going blind or to restore sight to those already blind.
The CS thanked the civil society including religious groups for playing a big role in advocating for corneal donation/harvesting from the departed, before the disposal of the bodies.
She argued that participatory engagement of all stakeholders will address the socio-cultural issues associated with handling of the deceased and organ donation.
The CS appreciated the Kanubai Babra Eye bank for being the only functional eye bank in Kenya and the the Eye Bank Ambassadors who have worked tirelessly to mobilize and facilitate Cornea Donations and Harvesting for over 200 corneas in the last one year.
She urged the Lion Sight First Hospital to foster networks and partnerships country wide, and work closely with institutions such as KNH/University of Nairobi, MTRH/Moi University and other hospitals to support establishment of similar satellite eye banks that will improve access to corneal transplantation services country wide.
She also called upon Kenyans and East Africans in need of these services to utilise the facilities towards realization Universal Health Coverage.