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0.78% of Nigerians have vision deficiency

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By Mercy Kelani

A total of 1.1 million people are blind, with insufficient ophthalmologists.

Dr. Joshua Ibenu, a public health expert and Programme Officer with Sightsavers Nigeria, stated that, in Nigeria, a total of 1.1 million people are blind, with insufficient ophthalmologists to treat the vision and eye conditions in the nation. Dr. Ibenu added that 0.78 percent of the people in Nigeria experience some kinds of vision deficiency in all ages, increasing to 4.2 percent among older age groups. He said this at the two-day capacity development for media practitioners held in Keffi, Nasarawa State, organized by Sightsavers Nigeria.

According to Dr. Ibenu, the statistics of blind people in Nigeria presently is estimated to be a total of 1,130,000 Nigerians aged 40 or above, with the highest data coming from the North West geo-political zone which has the largest number of blind people, especially adults, at the rate of 28.6 percent. This is because it is the largest zone in the country. He said that moderate visual impairment is diagnosed among 2,700,000 adults aged 40 and above, with an addition of 400,000 adults who are strongly visually impaired.

Cataracts and refractive errors are the leading causes of blindness.

He mentioned that the world could save more than $400 billion yearly if visual impairment is prevented. According to the expert, visual impairment happens when the vision functions and the visual system are affected by an eye condition, but blindness is the incapability to see at all. Cataracts and refractive errors are the leading causes of blindness and vision impairment worldwide. Dr. Ibenu stated that avoidable causes are the factors that result to 85 percent blindness generally, but people are ignorant of these factors.

Harmful traditional practices, unlimited screen time, poor sleep, cornea opacity and glaucoma are some of the preventable causes of blindness. Meanwhile, improvement of the people’s health status can only be guaranteed if this ailment is tackled in the country. He said that applying scent leaves, lizard faeces, breast milk and others are some harmful traditional practices that affect and damage ones vision. However, evidence generation, human resources for eye health, governance structure, policy and implementation, service delivery access, cost, financing, technology and infrastructure are a few of the challenges of the eye health system.

Professionals are needed to provide eye services.

There was no eye health policy until 2019, following its launch in 2022. However, the domestication of the policy is being deliberated for all states currently. The government is charged with the responsibility of evaluating it at the state level and ensure that it is applied to each state. Importantly, human resources is key to eye health. Also, professionals are needed to provide eye services, however, only few are available, causing insufficiency. The number of ophthalmologists are not enough even as the country still battles with availability of General Practitioners.

People are implored to prioritise eye care, but because of trending things, people are prioritising other things over eye care. According to his statement, Sightsavers is promoting eye health strategy through the improvement of access to services, and investment for provision of eye care resources required to boost the increase in coverage and promotion of universal access to eye health. Dr. Sunday Isiyaku, the Country Director of Sightsavers Nigeria urged Nigerians to involve in eye care regularly to promote eye health in the country.

Sightsavers envisions a world where no one suffers avoidable blindness.

Eye health issues can be detected soon if people have early diagnosis to avoid visual impairment. Every six months, it is compulsory that people screen their eyes to enhance diagnosis of eye complications. This will aid the detection of any eye issues and immediate treatment will commence to avert deterioration. Dr. Isiyaku said that the vision of Sightsavers is a global one where no one suffer eye problems from preventable causes, and at the same time support people with visual impairment.

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