By Fred Ezeh Abuja
Optometrists (eye doctors) said nearly seven million people in Nigeria are blind out of nearly 300 million blind people in the world, about 90% of whom live in developing countries.
Doctors have confirmed that the percentage of people living with visual impairment in the world is almost 40 and that Nigeria has almost 50 million people with some form of visual impairment, which has unquestionably limited their ability to work, learn or play.
The National President of the Nigerian Optometry Association (NOA), Dr Obinna Awiaka, who spoke to reporters in Abuja on Wednesday ahead of the 45th National NOA Vision Conference and Exhibition, said that unfortunately , 80% of the causes of blindness and visual impairment worldwide are preventable.
“Many people don’t get regular eye exams or take early preventative measures, and in some cases choose to hang out with quacks who often made their problems worse, forcing them to spend more money than they did. ‘they shouldn’t,’ he said. .
Dr Awiaka argued that the resources needed to achieve healthy sight is about 15% of what Nigeria or individuals could gain in productivity per year if the fight against blindness is carried out effectively.
“The massive brain drain of eye care professionals and other healthcare professionals from Nigeria to other countries has further aggravated the burden of blindness statistics in the country, and this calls for urgent attention from all parties. stakeholders if we don’t hope to experience a pandemic of blindness,” he added.
He however explained that the national conference themed “Leveraging Partnerships to Transform Optometry and Eye Care in West Africa” is an opportunity for experts and other stakeholders to discuss issues affecting the profession, to exchange ideas, knowledge and skills, on how best to address the challenges and promote the profession for the benefit of Nigerians.
Dr. Awiaka confirmed that during the conference there will be scientific sessions on research results, innovations and advancements in eye care by optometrists and other major players in the eye care industry. .
“In addition to this, discussions of eye care delivery issues at all levels of health care, eye health advocacy campaigns to target audiences, and organized optometry practice and education discussions , at the local, regional and global levels, would be at the forefront. .
“Furthermore, there would be an extensive exhibition showcasing products and services by no less than 100 different exhibitors from reputable industries and companies across the world, and an opportunity for socio-cultural understanding of cities and cultures in Nigeria, as well as business and social interactions among others.
He called on the government to urgently address the issues surrounding the plight of health care workers in Nigeria, to give the country a chance to avert the impending epidemic of blindness.
He argued that eye care at all levels of health care, especially primary eye care, needs maximum attention to ensure more people are reached, suggesting that employing more of optometrists will go a long way towards achieving this.
He pledged that as eye care professionals, they would continue to do their best to help change the narrative, thus calling on all potential stakeholders to join in improving the service delivery of eye health care in Nigeria. .