The Nigerian government says it is making plans to integrate primary eye care services in to primary healthcare centres (PHC) across the country.
The minister of health Dr. Osagie Ehanire stated this during the National Closeout and Final Dissemination Meeting on Child Eye Health in Nigeria organized by Seeing is Believing (SiB), in collaboration with the Federal ministry of health, Standard chartered bank and the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) international.
He said that the intention was to provide opportunities for rural communities to access proper eye care services so they could stop harmful self-medication practices whenever they have eye problems.
Adding that easy access to eye care services was key in reducing avoidable blindness for adults and children especially in underserved areas.
He noted that the National Council on Health has endorsed the plan and given approval for work to commence on the implementation plan.
Ehanire stated that: “The implementation guideline which has been unveiled today will soon be ready, and it will start with training of Primary healthcare (PHC) workers on how best to administer primary eye care services to patients at rural communities.
As part of the program, we develop various documents that we can see unveiled today.
We develop school eye health and guild lines to be able to guide eye care services in schools, the primary eye care manual to be able to ensure training of primary eye care workers at the family level.
What we intend to do as a ministry is to ensure that we are able to bring eye care closer to the people because you know that very often, distance is one of the barriers for people accessing eye care especially in the rural areas.
This document is aimed at equipping primary health care workers with the relevant skills to deliver primary eye care to the level the community close to the people.
This is because for us as a government, it is important to ensure that intervention are sustainable in the long run to ascertain that eye care is properly integrated all over the country so that Nigerians can benefit.”
The country director, Christian Blind Mission International Nigeria, Mr. Bright Ekweremadu, said that CBM reached and surpassed their initial target of 1.5million children target in 11 states of Nigeria.
He noted that with access to funds, more avoidable blindness would be avoided.
Mr. Ekweremadu also applauded Standard chartered bank for initiating and funding the project for three years.
‘’The project was originally designed to work in 11 states and it was not a national program. This made it obviously how important it is for eye health to be integrated.
There are so many ways we can integrate child health and eye issues just as we find maternal and child health program ongoing in Nigeria.
Why shouldn’t we include a comprehensive eye health into this project?” Ekweremadu added.
Also speaking during the event, the Programme Director, “Seeing is believing”, Dr Juliana Nathaniel said that the project encountered a lot of difficulties at the beginning but was able to surpass them.
The president of the Optometric Association Nigerian, Dr Ozi Okonuwa said they expected the government to take up the initiative as the event has served as an eye opener.
He also called on policy makers to look into the issue of lack of equipments and brain drain at hospitals.
The President of the Nigeria Association of the Blind, Mr Ishiyaku Adamu expressed gratitude for the attention the policy is getting at national levels saying he wished similar projects existed in the past as many blind people wouldn’t been blind.
He expressed gratitude for the rehabilitation aspect of the programme as he pleaded that they should always be carried along on projects concerning them.