Thursday, January 10, 2008

37 Million Nigerians Blind?

Minister of Health, Professor Adenike Grange has decried the alarming increase in the number of Nigerians suffering from cataract and other eye diseases. The Minister disclosed that about thirty seven million Nigerians representing one quarter of the country’s population are either blind or suffering one form of visual impairment or the other. The disclosure came at the flag-off ceremony of the Free Cataract Surgery Programme at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Benin City, and the Edo state capital. The project, which is being undertaken by a non-governmental organisation, Amen Foundation in collaboration with the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, is designed to provide treatment of cataract and other related eye diseases to patients free of charge so as to save more Nigerians from avoidable blindness. Grange, who underlined the importance of quality vision to the individual, commended the initiative, stating that the gesture would provide hundreds of thousands of Nigerians life and sight lines. Cataract, she said, could be effectively tackled since the leading causes were preventable if discovered on time. She said that in Nigeria as in most poor countries, cataract has remained a leading cause of blindness except that most people are either not aware that they have the problem or are too impoverished to access quality eye care. The Minister therefore urged t he nation's tertiary health institutions to move out o f their ivory towers into the neighbourhoods, in order to allow the local people access the facilities available in the teaching hospitals. She also implored the leadership of the states and local councils to latch onto the gesture and similar initiatives to bring succour to their people, adding that ''the eye is too precious and its care too delicate to be left in the hands of quacks and charlatans.'' Earlier, the founder and president of Amen Foundation, Rita Oguntoyinbo disclosed that cataract surgeries have been carried out on 276 patients including children, whilst 1,491 glasses have been given out to persons with varying degrees of visual impairments . She said that it was for the purpose of ensuring that the under-privileged for whom the free cataract services are being provided actually benefit from that the foundation.She also disclosed that the Foundation planned to work closely with the mi nistry of health, the central hospital and the local government to conduct cataract screenings in the rural c ommunities.

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