Sightsavers Nigeria is commemorating seven decades of collaborative work to protect sight and campaign for disability rights.
Since 1953, in collaboration with national and state governments and partners, Sightsavers in Nigeria has supported and campaigned for the rights of the persons with disabilities, delivered over 60,000 cataract surgery, 590 million treatments to eliminate five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). These diseases, which affect millions of people in the country, can cause excruciating pain, permanent blindness and long-term disability, and can sometimes be fatal.
To mark the anniversary, representatives from Sightsavers, the national and state governments and the global health community attended an event on 20 November at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja.
Speaking at the event, Special Guest of Honor, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Betta Edu said the Federal Government of Nigeria is indeed pleased with the impact of sight savers in Nigeria over these seven decades. The eye surgeries and other interventions to prevent blindness have boosted literacy rate, sight savers have supported particularly girls and children with disabilities. This inclusive approach will ensure more persons with disabilities can contribute effectively to nation building. She called for more support in the humanitarian space which she says will save more sight of affected communities and IDPs and prevent more people from falling below poverty line.
Others included the director of public health at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Chukwuma Anyaike, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Persons with Disability, Mr James Lalu, the World Health Organization country representative Dr Walter Mulombo and Mohammed Abba Isa, Senior Special Assistant to President Bola Tinubu on Special Needs and Equal Opportunity.
Sightsavers regional director for West Africa Fatoumata Diouf, said: “Over the coming years, I look forward to Nigeria confining neglected tropical diseases to the history books and making quality eye care available to all. I also look forward to seeing the disability agenda rise high to ensure people with disabilities have equal access to health, education, employment and political participation.”
Sightsavers has helped to advance eye health services in Nigeria, promote inclusive education for children with disabilities, and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to be able to participate fully in society.
In the past seven decades, the organisation has trained 11,000 teachers and community health workers to provide vision screenings for children. It has also screened 130 million children for visual impairment in north-west Nigeria. In 2023 it equipped 1,000 services providers to support people with disabilities.
At the event, Sightsavers CEO Caroline Harper said: “As we look back on the past seven decades of Sightsavers working in Nigeria, what is clear is that collaboration and partnership have been intrinsic to our success. I am optimistic about the future of eye health, inclusion and the elimination of neglected tropical diseases in the country. We’re committed to reaching the most marginalised communities, the disabled community in Nigeria and I look forward to many more years of collaboration and life-changing work.”