WOD: Optometrists target free Eye Screening for 10million Nigerian Children, want subsidy for Eye Equipment

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By Uzo Ugwunze

The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) has relaunched ‘My Sight My Right Initiative’ which is a corporate social responsibility program targeted at providing free eye care services for 10 million Nigerian school children between the ages of 5 to 15 years.

The initiative was relaunched during the National Delegates Congress/Glaucoma Summit at Hilton Leisure Resorts and Hotels at Awka, Anambra State.

The NOA National President, Dr Anderson Chimeziri, PRO, Dr. Okechukwu Egboluche and Anambra State Chairman, Dr. Chidiebere Ezeanowai who in their separate speeches said that the association was also celebrating the World’s Optometry Day(WOD) urged both Federal and State Government to subsidize costs of Eye Equipments to make eye Care services affordable to the poor, rich and middle class Nigerians.

They said that because of the heavy cost of importing most of the equipments the bill for treatment may be high but if government can buy these equipments and equip public health facilities, employ more optometrists who are the first port of call for primary eye Care, remove import duty for heavy equipments, it would go a long way towards making eye Care services affordable.

According to the President NOA, Dr Chimeziri Anderson, this convention of a sort is a tripartite event, which includes glaucoma awareness in observance of World Glaucoma Week, Optometric activities, in observance of World Optometry Week and the National Delegate Meeting where we deliberate on ways to enhance Optometric practice as well as improve on the welfare of our members in the health sector”.

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“In this event, we shall also launch two important projects of my administration;
The maiden edition of our newsletter magazine “Eye Connect” and the relaunching of the NOA initiatives for children. My Sight-My Right.
_My Sight My Right is a corporate social responsibility and eye health promotion drive of the Nigerian Optometric Association”.

“We are targeting children because they are a vulnerable population, often not in control of their eye healthcare choices. Many children do not have health insurance and their complaints may not be prioritised by parents/guardians due to financial constraints or lack of adequate awareness.

“Most eye conditions become chronic if failed to be detected and managed early.
Children are the future of any nation and graduate to be the productive population of any Nation. Ensuring optimum eye health among children is crucial for their education, productivity, and social well-being.
Vision problems can contribute to school dropouts, juvenile delinquency, redundancy and other associated societal issues, making it essential to provide children with comprehensive eye care services.

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“We are targeting 10 million children across Nigeria to be screened and those who need glasses will get it free of charge.

“I call on all philanthropists, government agencies, donor support agencies and IDAs to come to our aid and support us make this a reality.
A total budget of 100 million naira($100,000) will be required to meet this target knowing fully well that the underserved children reside in the rural areas and villages,” Chimeziri said.

Earlier in his address, NOA Anambra State Chairman, Dr Chidiebere Ezeanowai said that the essence of the event theme – ‘Glaucoma, the Silent Thief of Sight’ was because more awareness was needed to let people understand the need for regular eye checks saying that glaucoma has nearly no symptoms until it gets to its final stages.

In her Keynote address, National Coordinator Eye Health, Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Abuja, Dr. Oteri Eme Okolo said that Glaucoma was predominant in subsaharan Africa and more among Igbos in the South East.

“Glaucoma Risk factors include Black race, especially Igbo ethnicity, family history, above 40years, exposure to trauma, male gender, unmarried state, Intraocular pressing (IOP), Diabetes, HBP, Refractive errors, Direct and Indirect costs associated with seeking care and treatment.

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“How do you catch the thief: Awareness campaigns, patient compliance to medication, collaboration and research should continue. We cannot restore vision but Conserve vision in the management of glaucoma patients. Early detection by seeing an optometrist is key to glaucoma or any treatment of eye problem,” Okolo said.

Moreover, former Head of Service, Anambra State and occasion chairman, Barr. Harry Udu pleaded with researchers to discover why glaucoma is prevalent among Igbos and create awareness of preventive measures.

Highlights of the summit include free glaucoma eye screening, the Launching of the maiden edition of NOA Newsletter’ Eye Connect’, award demonstration to SSA on Special Duties to Abia State Governor, Dr Mrs Betty Emeka-Obasi.

NOA declared to give Governor Chukwuma Soludo a special Leadership award on security and a recognition award for Anambra State being the only government in Nigeria to give the optometry profession its rightful place in the Ministry of Health.

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