Federal Government has unveiled a National Eye Health Strategic Development Plan (2024-2028), Diabetic Retinopathy screening and management guideline and the Nigeria Glaucoma Guidelines and Toolkit which are policy documents aimed at improving vision and eye health in the country.
Meanwhile, about 24 million Nigerians are living with treatable sight loss caused by untreated cataracts and uncorrected refractive errors.
Minister of State for Health, and Social Welfare Dr Tunji Alausa who unveiled the three documents at the event to mark the 2023 World Sight Day yesterday in Abuja, said that the National Eye Health Strategic Development Plan (2024-2028) represents the commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Health to the attainment of the highest quality of eye health for its people.
He stated that there has been global attention on eye health with the evidence emerging that good eye health is the golden thread across the Sustainable Development Goals adding that the United Nations Resolution on Vision – Vision for all – was passed in 2021 with Nigeria in support.
Alausa said that the goal of this initiative is to complement governments efforts while strengthening the eye health system to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable development goals; empowering Nigerians to learn, earn and thrive.
The minister observed that initiative will build the foundations to deliver change across the life course and ensure access to eye health services for school children through school eye health programmes, establishing the potential to unlock learning for millions of children being held behind, Integration of eye health services into primary healthcare to ensure treatment of basic issues and delivery of spectacles ensuring working age people and the elderly access timely treatment and early detection and referral of those with cataracts.
He explained that the plan is based on series of inter and multi sectoral consultations and engagements with key stakeholders to ensure integration and coordination of eye health activities within and beyond the health sector, covering the spectrum of all eye health interventions to be delivered throughout the life course of every Nigerian.
Alausa noted that the guidelines recommend strategies to strengthen leadership and clinical governance, protocols that standardize care and define care pathways including strengthening referral mechanisms, financing and sustainability and research to improve service delivery and patient outcomes in the long run.
He observed that the guidelines has been designed to guide the FMOH, subnational governments, partners, service providers and all other stakeholders in advocacy, planning, implementation, management, monitoring and evaluation of interventions that address the eye care needs of the people at all levels.
He said, ‘ Many of us in the room heard or listened to Mr President tell the eye health story of his mum a few weeks ago. .That story was the motivation for Jigibola 1.0 then, it is the call to action to Learning Earning Thriving Nigeria See, JigiBola 2.0 (let Nigeria See), in 2023 and the FMOH with its partners are heeding the call. Mr President used his personal experience to impact the lives of millions in Lagos by catalysing the strengthening of eye care services. Mr President is ready to touch the lives of millions yet again on a national scale, ” .
‘The Diabetic Retinopathy screening and management guideline is a paradigm shift towards a nationally effective framework with a cohesive, cost-effective, comprehensive, and patient centred approach, critical to making the needed impact by increasing the opportunity for prevention and prompt treatment at early stages’.
Also speaking, the National Coordinator, National Eye Health Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Oteri Okoloobserved that globalization, unhealthy lifestyle choices and the demands of modern work-styles reiterates the need to plan for non-communicable eye health conditions like glaucoma already the second cause of blindness in Nigeria and diabetic retinopathy a sight threatening complication of Diabetes which is already on an epidemic rise.
She stated that many Nigerians have various degrees of vision impairment adding that all citizens require eye care services at one point in their lifetime.
She said, ‘We are engaged in chasing out completely the shadows of blurred vision that hold back learning, well-being and productivity. We strive to roll back the curtains of darkness in blindness and severe vision impairment with the light of vision. These we hope to achieve with evidence based, cost effective interventions outlined in National policies, plans and guidelines for systematic implementation nationwide.
Okolo noted that the documents are a clear articulation for the eye health sector of the renewed hope agenda, the FMOH 4-point agenda and this administrations’ drive and commitment to achieving Universal Health Coverage through the provision of integrated, comprehensive and patient-centred eye care services that will meet the expectations and the increasing demand for eye care services by the populace.