By: Ogunrinde Victoria, Abuja
The Christoffel – Blindenmission (CBM) International in collaboration with other key stakeholders has implored the Federal government on improving eye health care services especially in children as this will help curb blindness and visual impairment.
The Country Director CBM International Nigeria, Mr. Bright Ekweremadu made this know today at the National Closeout and Final Dissemination Meeting of the Seeing is Believing (SiB) programme, Nigeria held in Abuja.
The Seeing is Believing programme is a three year (2017-2020) comprehensive Child Eye Health in Nigeria (CCEHiN), that seeks to make child eye health services available and accessible through promotion, prevention, medical care and rehabilitation/inclusive education targeted at vulnerable children.
The SiB programme was implemented across 11states: Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Kano, Kastina, Jigawa, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Nassarawa, Plateau and the FCT, managed by a consortium comprising, Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) and CBM International as the lead partner.
Mr. Ekweremadu while highligting some of the findings made in course of the SiB programme noted that “it very important to directly intervene at the grass roots, underserved, and hard-to-reach areas as this is where vulnerable children who cannot access proper eye health services can be found”.
He added: “they are quite a few number of avoidable blindness out there but unfortunately we are not able to help out those children because of our inability to fund the programme”.
“This project has demonstrated that with something not so huge in terms of the amount, we can help millions of young persons who would ordinarily have turned blind”, he said.
Similarly, the CBM Nigeria Boss, stated that Eye health has not been taken seriously by the government, thus the eye health department unit under the federal ministry of health seem not to be well funded adding that even in the tertiary institutions where surgeries for children with eye impairment should take place has the man power but do not have the necessary equipment.
However, Ekeremadu said, “The project has kinda bridge the gap but a lot still needs to be done so I think this is a wake up call to the government of Nigeria to look into eye health and make sure eye health is reasonably funded like so many other diseases”.
He also task key stakeholders and implementing partners that eye health should be integrated into all maternal and child health programmes in Nigeria.
Responding, the National Eye Health Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Oteri Okolo in her remarks expressed gratitude to the CBM and her implementing partners on the just concluded SiB programme.
Okolo explained that the Federal Ministry of Health through the SiB has developed policy documents for eye health treatment guidelines to ensure bringing eye care closer to the people specially at the rural areas.
Also speaking at the event, the President, Nigeria Optometric Association, Dr. Ozi Okonokhua implored the federal government to continue what the CBM has done and take it down from the top to the roots.
Dr. Okonokhua however urged the FG to equip hospitals with necessary equipment, increase funding budget for eye health care, train and re-train personnels specially at schools, create awareness on the need for early detection and prevention and inclusive education for vulnerable children.
He reteirated the Nigerian Optometric Association commitment to always be in the front line to also help improve eye health care service delivery.