The National Optometric Association has called for proper implementation of the National Eye Health Policy and the report of the National Eye Health Committee set up by the Federal Government to oversee equitable access to quality eye care services in the country.

The association said if well implemented, the policy would strengthen Nigeria’s health system towards the attainment of Universal Eye Health Action.

Speaking on Thursday during its 45th Annual General Meeting in Abuja, the association’s president, Dr. Obinna Awiaka, said, “We are optimistic that optometrists shall be fully integrated into the course of implementation of this policy, especially at the primary health care level.

“This would go a long way in standardising eye care services to the teeming population and at the same time reduce brain drain to the barest minimum.”

He used the opportunity to “call on the government to make more employment opportunities available for optometrists to be gainfully employed in the health care sector as the current distribution of optometrists in Nigeria falls way below the World Health Organisation’s recommended proportion.”

Speaking further at the event with the theme: “Leveraging Partnerships to Transform Optometry and Eyecare in West Africa,” Dr. Awiaka said it was pertinent to note that optometrists, as the primary eye care providers, have been at the forefront of waging war against visual impairment and blindness.

“However, statistics available reveal that the number of people with vision loss is expected to rise from the current figure of 1.1 billion to 1.7 billion by 2050.

“Over 90 percent of this figure is in the low and middle-income countries of which Nigeria is a part.

“Meanwhile, over 1.2 million aged 40 years and above are blind and a further 2.7 million adults – 40 years and above – are with moderate visual impairment in Nigeria,” he said.

According to him, globally, vision loss costs over $411 billion posing one of the greatest economic challenges one can imagine.

“These statistics are scary and reemphasise the huge tasks and responsibilities left for optometrists, other eye care professionals, action agencies, and all stakeholders,” he added.

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