The Nigeria Optometric Association has called on government at all levels to prioritise child eye care to stem the tide of visual impairment among younger generation.
The President of the Association, Dr Okonokhua Ozy, made the call on Friday in Abuja at the inauguration of second phase of `My Sight, My Right’ Initiative, targeted at children aged 0 to 14 years.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event, which was part of activities to mark the 2019 World Sight Day, was held at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camp, Durumi, Abuja.
NAN also reports that eyes screening was conducted for the IDPs community members as medications and spectacles were also given to them while those in need of surgery were referred to the appropriate health centre.
Ozy said the programme, which was a landmark for eye care professionals in Nigeria, was done in collaboration with `Seeing is Believing’ (SiB) sponsored by CBM International, and other partners.
He said it was important that governments at all levels, NGO’s and stakeholders embrace such initiative across the country,
According to him, the burden is huge and only collaborative efforts will help reduce the burden.
“My sight My right Initiative is a project which commenced in 2018 to mark the existence of the Association’s 50th Anniversary, after the first phase, we realised a lot of children were in need of eye care services.
“We receive reports from the National Agency for the prevention of blindness as it relates to impending danger resulting from visual impairment in younger generation.
“This is key, as an association we cannot shoulder the responsibility alone.
“However, we appeal to government at all levels to begin implementation of the eye care policy launched recently,” he said.
Dr Juliana Nathaniel, Country Director, Seeing is Believing (SiB), CBM Nigeria International, said in line with vision 2020, the initiative was aimed at reducing blindness and visual impairment among the general public.
Nathaniel said the programme, which was also in partnership with Nigeria Orientation Agency, was taking place in 11 states of the federation, targeted at 1.5 million children from indigent homes and communities.
She said that the programme had trained and equipped some school teachers and community members to identify children with eye problem and refer them to primary and secondary health care facilities.
The eye expert added that the health facilities in the primary, secondary and tertiary hospitals were fully equipped by the programme with medications, spectacles and equipment for eye care services.
Nathaniel explained that the programme was a comprehensive eye care service for the Nigerian children, saying the tertiary hospitals have so far provided 3,000 free eye surgeries, procured 27,000 spectacles and 215,000 low vision devises
Dr Adesuwa Ogu, National President Women Optometrists in Nigeria, said the project was aimed at reaching the indigents and the unreached at the grassroots across the country with eye care services.
Ogu said 55 per cent of the world’s visually impaired is women, stating that most of the women and children do not have access and funds to receive eye care services around their communities.
She encouraged citizens to visit eye clinics for check-up at least once a year and children should access care when the need arises, while mothers desist from putting breast milk and leaves in the eyes of infants.
Dr Simeon Egbujiorbo, Nigeria Optometrist Association, FCT Chairman, called on the government to develop policies that would encourage routine eye check from primary schools to tertiary institutions at least once yearly.
According to Egbujiorbo, one of the reasons that could limit a child from doing well in school is when the eye is not functioning properly, which would further affect the progress in school.
Mrs Liyatu Ayuba, Women leader IDPs Camp in the FCT, a beneficiary of the free eye care services appreciated the various organisations for providing free eye check for the community members.
According to her, all the women and children in the camp are very happy for the free eye check provided by the organisation.
”They checked our eyes, gave us eye drops and glasses, and we appreciate their effort,” she said.