Comm Eye Health Vol. 17 No. 51 2004 pp 46. Published online 01 October 2004.

Preventing broomstick eye injuries in children in Accra, Ghana

V.A. Essuman and C.T. Ntim-Amponsah

Ophthalmology Unit, Department of Surgery, University of Ghana Medical School, P.O. Box gp 4236, Accra, Ghana. Email: cnamponsah@hotmail.com

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Brooms, made from palm branches, have been associated with eye injuries in Ghana. We determined the epidemiology of broomstick eye injuries in Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana.

Patients with broomstick eye injuries attending the Eye Clinic over 12 months were recruited after informed consent. In addition to clinical examination, information was collected by questionnaire, in-depth interviews, and passive participant observation to find out about the circumstances peculiar to the injury and access to eye care. This gave us clues to preventive measures.

We treated ten children and one adult. All the children were under 12 years of age, 80 per cent were males, 90 per cent were pupils, and 90 per cent were injured while walking back home from school. Injury occurred while the children were playing a game of shooting a piece of broomstick at each other using a rubber band as a sling. Half the injuries were cornea or scleral perforations that resulted in monocular blindness, usually from complicated cataract, and/or endophthalmitis.

We took advantage of a local national VISION 2020 workshop to discuss a public health approach to the problem. Plans to deal with the issue aim at educating children, teachers, parents and the general public on the dangers of rubber bands and broomsticks in the hands of children, and to promote the proper disposal of any items which could injure eyes. As devices children use for play change, we will also stress the general point about care of eyes. Communication strategies include discussion on eye injuries on television, and talks to children’s clubs.