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Nigeria risks pandemic with 50m visually impaired citizens, association warns

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
14 July 2022   |   2:40 am
About 50 million Nigerians have one visual disability or the other, while nearly seven million Nigerians are blind.

Photo: PIXABAY

About 50 million Nigerians have one visual disability or the other, while nearly seven million Nigerians are blind.

Consequently, Nigerians have been urged to give priority to their eyes and have them examined at least once in 18 months.

Nearly 300 million people are blind globally and roughly 90 per cent of them live in developing countries.

President of Nigeria Optometric Association (NOA), Dr Obinna Awiaka, who disclosed this while briefing journalists on the 45th yearly conference of the association opening today (Thursday) in Abuja, noted that the massive brain drain of professionals and other healthcare professionals had worsened blindness statistics in the country.

Awiaka said the situation calls for urgent attention from the government and stakeholders with a view to averting the pandemic in Nigeria.

He observed that 80 per cent of cases of blindness and visual disabilities worldwide were avoidable.

The resources needed to prevent and treat the scenario, “is about 15 per cent of what the country stands to gain in productivity yearly if we effectively fight blindness, where these persons work at optimal capacity,” he noted.

The expert called on the government to urgently address issues surrounding the plight of healthcare workers in Nigeria.

He said: “The percentage of people living with visual disabilities across the world is almost 40 per cent. Nigeria has close to 50 million persons that have some form of visual disability or the other, limiting their ability to work, learn or play. Eyecare at all levels of healthcare, especially primary eyecare needs maximum attention in order to ensure that more people are reached. The employment of more optometrists will go a long way to help achieve this.

“As eye care professionals, we will continue to give our best to help change the narrative, and we are calling on all potential stakeholders to come to join us as we seek to leverage partnerships to improve eye health care delivery in Nigeria, hence our theme for this programme, ‘Leveraging partnerships to transform optometry and eye care in West Africa’.”