World Sight Day is celebrated internationally on the second Thursday in October. This annual event is targeted to create awareness on eye diseases and to focus global attention to the issues of blindness and visual impairment. The theme for this year 2019 is “Vision first”.
This year is remarkable as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has released the World Report on Vision. This is the first ever report from the WHO that highlights key issues relating to eye health in the world. The report also reveals the global magnitude of visual impairment. Globally, 2.2 billion people have some form of visual impairment. This ranges from mild visual impairment to blinding eye conditions. Nearly half of these could be prevented or easily treatable through cost effective measures. It is estimated that health institutions require $14.3 billion USD to address the two major causes of treatable visual impairment – uncorrected refractive errors and cataract.
In Nigeria, the overall prevalence of blindness in all ages is 4.2%. This means that given the population of 200 million, about 8.4 million Nigerians are blind. 80% of blindness is avoidable and 50% of blindness is due to untreated cataract.
Sightsavers is an international Development organisation that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people with disabilities.
In Nigeria, SightSavers has been in the country for over 60 years controlling, preventing and eliminating avoidable blindness and promoting the equal rights of people with disabilities. “We work with local communities, using local volunteers to build trust and encourage people to accept the solution we provide and sustain them” The Senior program manager at Sightsavers, Dr Selben Penzin said.
With respect to the prevention of blindness and the control of neglected tropical diseases – trachoma being the top cause of infective blindness and visual impairment. This year, Sightsavers is partnering with the Federal Ministry of Health, National Eye Health Programme and all key stakeholders in the eye health sector, including civil society groups to create awareness and provide screening services for the population. This will pave way for more concerted efforts towards harnessing the existing resources towards achievement of the goals of the Global Action Plan for eye health and the Universal Eye Health. These efforts are in line with the strategies of eye health prevention, promotion, treatment and rehabilitation.
The key message for this year is “Have your eyes examined at least once a year.”
Other activities planned include community screening and referral of persons with visual impairment to designated eye hospitals.
The World Report on Vision recommends that eye care should be made an integral part of universal health coverage, implement people-centred eye care programmes, raise awareness and empower people and communities, monitor trends in disease prevalence and to produce high quality research.