Stella Ukwuoma, Abuja
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate the World Sight Day today, there is need for assessment of how well or otherwise the country has fared in achieving the aims and objectives of the day.
World Sight Day, WSD, observed every second Thursday of October has been an annual international celebration since 2000 and the theme of this year is: “Make Vision Count”.
The day is earmarked by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, IAPB, in conjunction with the World Health Organisation, WHO, to create public awareness and draw attention to blindness and vision impairment through lobbying governments to actively participate blindness prevention and healing.
Statistics released by WHO shows that all over the world, 253 million people are visually impaired. Out of this number, 81 percent are aged 50 years and above while 84 percent of visual impairment is as a result of chronic eye diseases.
The statistics also revealed that people who are visually impaired are 3 times more likely to be unemployed, 3 times more likely to be involved in vehicular accidents, 3 times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders and 2 times more likely to have a fall while walking.
WHO therefore is calling for people to educated, informed, provided quality and affordable eye care services, which would enable them identify needs and where needed, access available eye care services.
The WHO submission that a scandalous 81 percent of visual impairment cases could be avoided simply by early diagnoses and treatment bemoans the healthcare delivery services in Nigeria.
Recently, the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari lamented the lack of consumables at the Aso Villa Clinic, which ought to be a signpost of the nation’s healthcare delivery system.
According to Mrs. Buhari, as common a medical instrument as syringes were completely unavailable at the premier hospital which ought to take care of the ‘first family’ of Nigeria in spite of humongous allocations.
Mrs. Buhari said she resorted to assessing health care in a private foreign hospital in the country after she was advised to travel to London to get herself treated.
Recall that her daughter, Zainab had raised similar concerns prior to this.
Current serving ministers in Nigeria at various times had travelled abroad to seek medical services and it is no longer news that President Muhammadu Buhari spent over 100 days in London in his most recent medical vacation.
Health workers including medical doctors have over the years resorted to strike actions to press home their demands of improved working environment and pay.
The Federal Government on Wednesday said it is set to enforce “no work no pay” law and also look extensively into private practice by doctors in the employ of the federal government.
The World Sight Day is another reminder and a wake-up call to governments across the world particularly in Nigeria to take the health sector seriously and one way that seems surest to deal with the cankerous problems besetting the health sector is the eradication of medical tourism, one of the cardinal campaign promises of this present administration.
The WHO has set 2020 as a benchmark for the realisation of its goal. Can Nigeria say the same?