The Federal Government has launched three policy documents to improve vision and eye health in Nigeria to commemorate the 2023 World Sight Day, with the theme “love your eyes at work”.
The Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Tunji Alausa, said the policy documents namely; The National Eye Health Strategic Plan; The Nigeria Glaucoma Guidelines and Toolkit and The National Guidelines for Screening & Management of Diabetic Retinopathy were part of government’s strategic guidelines to improve eye health in the Country.
Alausa, informed that there has been global attention on eye health with evidence emerging that good eye health is the golden thread across the Sustainable Development Goals. A United Nations Resolution on Vision – Vision for all – was passed in 2021 with Nigeria in support.
He said recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General made the remark, “the loss of eyesight is a tragedy, but when it happens despite being preventable, it is an outrage”, spurring the WHO to make this a global initiative which Nigeria through the FMOH has the potential to be a global exemplar of transformation.
According to him, “about 24 million Nigerians are living with treatable sight loss majorly caused by untreated cataract and uncorrected refractive errors, hence the initiatives would aide in addressing it and build the foundations to deliver change across the life course”.
“Access to eye health services for school children through school eye health programmes, establishing the potential to unlock learning for millions of children being held behind. Integration of eye health services into primary healthcare to ensure treatment of basic issues and delivery of spectacles. Ensuring working age people and the elderly access timely treatment and early detection and referral of those with cataracts. These interventions will be coordinated through the National Eye Health Programme (NEHP)”.
He added that the 3 to 4 year long-term road map to improve access to refractive error services to build capacity of personnel, improve population education, reduce the cost and strengthen surveillance would be implemented in collaboration with partners.
“This will be implemented by the NEHP in partnership with multiple stakeholders, expand training of primary health workers in eye health, provide key platform for the delivery and integration of eye care services”.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Daju, Kachollom mni said, the theme for this year’s celebration is a call to action to focus attention on the need for the productive workforce of any nation to pay attention to their eye health. Despite the important functions of the eyes, eye health is often relegated to the background. “This day therefore affords us the unique opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of this precious sense. Eye care is now more than a health issue as it is critical to achieving all the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs)”.
“In recognition of this, all member States at the United Nations General Assembly in 2021, including Nigeria passed a resolution committing to implementation of a National Strategy for Eye care, and drive new financial investment and resources to provide quality eye care services by 2030”.
Dr Oteri Okolo, National Coordinator, NEHP Programme at the Ministry said, about 1.3 persons in Nigeria were blind, hence the commitment to eye health activities through implementation of national policies, plans and guidelines for systematic implementation nationwide.
Okolo said the National Eye Health Strategic Development Plan (2024-2028) policy document represents the commitment of the government to the attainment of the highest quality of eye health for its people.
She added that the Diabetic Retinopathy Screening and Management Guideline was a framework critical to making the needed impact by increasing the opportunity for prevention and prompt treatment at early stages.
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