The National Optometric Association called for proper implementation of the National Eye Health Policy and the report of the National Eye Health Committee established by the federal government to oversee equitable access to quality eye care services in the country.
The association said if implemented well, the policy would strengthen Nigeria’s health system towards achieving the Universal Action for Eye Health.
Speaking at its 45th Annual General Meeting in Abuja on Thursday, Association President Dr. Obinna Awiaka said, “We are optimistic that optometrists will be fully integrated during the implementation of this policy, particularly at the level of primary health care.
“It would go a long way to standardize eye care services for the large population and at the same time reduce brain drain to a bare minimum.”
He took the opportunity to “call on the government to provide more employment opportunities for optometrists to be gainfully employed in the healthcare sector, as the current distribution of optometrists in Nigeria is well below the proportion recommended by the World Health Organization.
Speaking further during the event on the theme: “Leveraging Partnerships to Transform Optometry and Eye Care in West Africa,” Dr Awiaka said it was pertinent to note that the Optometrists, as primary eye care providers, have been at the forefront of the war against visual impairment and blindness.
“However, available statistics reveal that the number of people with vision loss is expected to increase from the current figure of 1.1 billion to 1.7 billion by 2050.
“Over 90% of this figure is in low- and middle-income countries of which Nigeria is one.
“Meanwhile, more than 1.2 million people aged 40 and over are blind and an additional 2.7 million adults – 40 and over – have moderate visual impairment in Nigeria,” he said. he declares.
Globally, vision loss costs more than $411 billion, he says, posing one of the greatest economic challenges imaginable.
“These statistics are chilling and again underscore the enormous tasks and responsibilities left to optometrists, other eye care professionals, advocacy agencies and all stakeholders,” he added.