One million Nigerians blind — Minister
The Minister of Health, Prof. Christian Chukwu, has said that over one million Nigerians are blind while another three million are visually impaired.
The minister said this on Tuesday while declaring closed a week long “Israel Open Eye Project” which saw Israeli eye specialists providing free eye surgeries to more than 50 Nigerians in Abuja.
The eye surgeries took place at the National Hospital, Abuja. The project was at the instance of the Embassy of the State of Israel in Nigeria, as part of activities marking the nation’s 62nd year anniversary.
Chukwu said available data obtained from the National Blindness and low vision survey (2008), revealed that over one million Nigerians were blind.
Chukwu who was represented at the event by the Director of Public Health in the Ministry, Dr. Mike Anibeze, explained that Nigeria has a 4.2 per cent prevalence rate in adults that are 40 years and above and 0.78 per cent in all ages.
He said, “There are over one million Nigerians that are blind and another three million visually impaired. Fifty per cent of the avoidable blindness is attributable to cataract, followed by Glaucoma (16per cent) Corneal Opacity (12per cent) and Trachoma (4percent).”
“Optic Atrophy (3per cent) and Refractive Error is the major cause of the visual impairment found out during the survey.”
Earlier, the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Moshe Ram said the “Israel Eye Opening Project” was part of his country’s little contribution to improving the visual health of Nigerians.
Ram said, “This project is also dedicated to the memory of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua who in his life time showed concern for the health of Nigerians.”
Acting Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital, Dr. Audu Lamidi in his remarks said it was not the first time the Israelis were assisting Nigerians with their expertise.
Meanwhile, the health minister has promised to work with the National Assembly to make the National Health Act a reality.
He also promised to improve on the National Health Insurance Scheme, whose coverage he described as being low, nationally.
According to him, he would encourage the states to buy into the NHIS, while the Ministry of Health under his leadership will strive to create community-based health schemes that can better serve the generality of the people.
The minister spoke during an assessment tour of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, in Lagos, on Tuesday.
Chukwu noted that patients complained about the cost of health care, saying government would do all it could to make health care delivery affordable for the people.
He said, Primary Health care Centres would be built with interface with the local councils which would provide the personnel to work there.
He also promised that the Midwife Service Scheme would be improved upon, so that pregnant women could have access to good healthcare at minimal cost.
Chukwu expressed satisfaction with what he called the work ethics of the staff of LUTH, while describing it as a foremost medical institution in Nigeria.
He revealed that he visited LUTH to confirm whether or not the workers could provide quality health care to Nigerians, saying he was satisfied with what he saw.
He noted the problem of ‘space constraint‘ at the paediatric unit, and promised that, as a short-term solution, temporary space would be provided for patients of the unit, while the medium-term plan was to build a bigger paediatric centre.