The Nigerian Optometric Association has said that nearly seven million Nigerians are blind.
The association also said Nigeria presently has close to 50 million persons that have some form of visual disability or the other, limiting their ability to work, learn or play.
Speaking during a news conference on Wednesday ahead of its 45th National Conference and Vision Expo, the National President of the Nigerian Optometric Association, Dr Obinna Awiaka, said 80 percent of the causes of blindness and visual disabilities across the world are avoidable.
He said, “Many people don’t do periodic eye examinations nor take preventive measures early, and in some cases, they choose to patronise quacks who, oftentimes, worsened their problems, thereby causing them to spend more money than they ought to.”
According to him, many of the resources needed to achieve healthy eyesight are about 15 percent of what Nigeria or an individual stands to gain in productivity per annum if the fight against blindness is addressed.
“The massive brain drain of eye care professionals and other health care professionals from Nigeria to other countries has further worsened the burden of blindness statistics in the country, and this calls for urgent attention from all stakeholders if we do not hope to experience a blindness pandemic.”
He, however, explained that the national conference with the theme, ‘Leveraging on partnerships to transform optometry and eye care in West Africa, is an opportunity for experts and stakeholders to discuss issues concerning the profession, exchange ideas, knowledge, and skills, on how best to tackle challenges and promote the profession for the betterment of Nigerians.
“In addition to that, discussions on eye care delivery issues at all levels of health care, advocacy campaigns on eye health to target audiences as well as discussions on organized optometry practice and training, locally, regionally, and globally, would be on the front burner.
“Also, there would be a broad exhibition showcasing products and services by no fewer than 100 different exhibitors from reputable industries and companies across the globe, and an opportunity for the socio-cultural understanding of cities and cultures in Nigeria, as well as business and social interactions among others.”
He called on the government to urgently address the issues surrounding the plight of healthcare workers in Nigeria, to give the country a fighting chance to avoid the impending blindness epidemic.
He maintained that eye care at all levels of healthcare, especially primary eye care, needs maximum attention to ensure that more people are reached.