Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Federal Government has disclosed that plans are underway to introduce primary eye care services in primary healthcare centres (PHC) across Nigeria. The intention, it said, was to provide opportunities for rural communities to access proper eye care services so they could quit harmful self-medication practices whenever they have eye problems.
The national coordinator, National Eye Health Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Oteri Okolo, disclosed this reporters at an event to mark World Sight Day, in Abuja. She said that the National Council on Health has endorsed the plan and given approval for work to commence on the implementation plan.
Okolo said the rate of eye problems has been on the increase, attributing it to poor knowledge of patients in rural communities on basic steps to take in such situations.
She confirmed that the implementation guideline will soon be ready, and it will start with training of PHC workers on how best to administer primary eye care services to patients at rural communities.”
Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, who was by represented the Permanent Secretary, Abdullahi Mashi, confirmed that Nigeria’s prevalence of blindness is 0.78 per cent in all ages. He said that cataract was the major cause of blindness, followed by glaucoma, trachoma, age related macula degeneration, diabetic and hypertensive retinopathies.
The Minister disclosed that outcome of National Blindness and Visual Impairment survey revealed that prevalence of blindness among children of 10-15 years stood at 0.6 per cent, with measles, vitamin A deficiency and traditional eye medication accounting for larger percentage of the cases.
He added that refractive errors that could be easily corrected by spectacles were responsible for high cases of blindness.
He maintained that easy access to eye care services is key to reducing avoidable blindness in adults and children especially in underserved areas.
Permanent Secretary, Policies and Strategies, Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Dr. Ajani Magdalene, encouraged National Optometrist Association (NOA) and other stakeholders to champion the course of public sensitisation to reduce eye problems that, most often, lead to blindness.
The Permanent Secretary who is a consultant optometrist asked NOA and other professional bodies to take advantage of forthcoming National Council on Establishment (NCE) meeting to make request for little adjustment in scheme of service so they could get some recognition in Federal Civil Service.
She said: “The Scheme of Service is currently being reviewed. But the procedure is to make formal request through the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation (OHSF). The relevant officials would deliberate on it and subsequently, present it at the National Council on Establishment meeting for deliberation and decision.”