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Nigeria not on track to eliminate blindness by 2020 — Prof Folasade Akinsola

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Nigeria not on track to eliminate blindness by 2020 — Prof Folasade Akinsola

Says Universal Health Care will solve challenges of eye health services

By Chioma Obinna

As global demand for eye care is set to surge in coming years due to population growth, a professor of Public Health Ophthalmology at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Prof. Folasade Akinsola has expressed concern over the country’s failure to achieve the Vision 2020 initiative, saying Nigeria was far from eliminating the burden of visual impairment and avoidable blindness by end of 2020.

Akinsola, who linked the global projection due to population growth, ageing and changes in lifestyle said the burden weighs more heavily on low – and middle-income countries like Nigeria and specifically on rural communities as well as older people.

A report by the World Health Organisation, WHO, had shown that about 2.2 billion people globally have visual impairment, at least one billion of which could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed.   Sadly, eye conditions and vision impairment are widespread, and far too often go untreated.

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Presenting the 21st annual faculty lecture of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, Faculty of Ophthalmology in Lagos, Akinsola noted that statistics show that in Nigeria, an estimated 1.13 million individuals aged 40 years are currently blind; while 4.25 million adults are visually impaired or blind, with 2.7million having a moderate visual impairment and an additional 400,000 adults severely visually impaired.

She remarked that Nigeria has made appreciable progress on the Vision 2020 initiative, but the country was still far from achieving the goal even as she lamented that by 2020, the country should not be having a prevalence of blindness, but said no recent study had been done and called for more work on public education, government involvement, and training of specialists.

“The study done in 2007 is giving the country millions of blind and visually impaired people. Federal, state and local governments should look inward and study the situation to ensure that eye health care is improved through adopting Universal Health Coverage, UHC, which is an important part of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.”

Lamenting poor eye care among Nigerians due to lack of information, she advised against the use of urine, petrol, alum, faeces and breast milk on the eyes. She said such things are not to be used as they could permanently damage the eyes.

Akinsola stressed that at least half of the world’s population still does not have full coverage of essential health services with about 100 million people still being pushed into extreme poverty.

She said over 930 million people, or 12 per cent of the world’s population, spend at least 10 per cent of their household budgets to pay for health care, even though the UN member States agreed to try to achieve UHC by 2030 as part of the SDGs.

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