People living with Albinism have appealed to Federal Government for full implementation of National Eye Policy to improve access to eye health services in the country. Mr Afam Kasim, the Head of Media and Communication of Albino Foundation made the appeal during a news conference as part of activities to commemorate the 2019 World Sight Day on Thursday in Abuja. The Day has “Vision First” as its theme for 2019.
World Sight Day is observed annually on the second Thursday of October. It is a global event to draw attention to causes of blindness and vision impairment, as well as raise awareness on ways to avoid the disease. Kasim also appealed to Federal Government to improve eye health services in medical facilities across the country to encourage persons with albinism to attend school. He urged government to provide waiver for persons with the condition and other visually impaired persons to enable them to access vision aids at an affordable rate.
He noted that as someone living with Albinism who went to school especially primary and secondary school, vision is a challenge; no matter where you sit in the classroom. He added that majority of persons with albinism were not in school today because of vision problem. Meanwhile, Dr Okolo Ateri, the National Coordinator, National Eye Health Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, said that the Federal Government was discussing with pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of glaucoma medication. The national coordinator said “glaucoma is the second commonest cause of irreversible blindness and accounts for about 16.7 per cent blindness in the country.”
She added that Nigerians were susceptible to glaucoma and that glaucoma was one of the risk factors of blindness among the black race. She also disclosed that the National Eye Health Policy would focus on integrating eye health care into the primary health care centres, noting that the Primary Health Care (PHC) was the foundation for delivery of Universal Health Coverage services. She explained that the Ministry of Health would soon domesticate World Health Organisation’s (WHO) policy on eye health to enhance access to eye health care services in the country.
She noted that “beyond treating eye conditions, we want to promote eye care and establish prevention and that basically happens at the primary level.” The ministry was also working to boost blindness prevention and to reduce the high number of the condition in the country. She, therefore, urged Nigerians to go for routine eye check at least once a year to address the challenge. Also, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the theme of the 2019 world sight day — “Vision First” was a call to action, which was related to WHO global plan 2014-2019, emphasising universal eye health.
He said that the theme was also a call to ensure that everyone everywhere had access to preventive, curative and rehabilitative eye health services at cost that did not further impoverish him or her. The minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Abdullahi Mashi, said that Nigeria had been working with partners to raise awareness on the causes of avoidable blindness and its solutions. He added that the ministry, with support from partners, was doing a lot to reduce the backlog of cataract cases in the country. He reiterated the commitment of Federal Government to reduce vision impairment by 25 per cent in the year 2020.