The federal government has revealed policy documents to improve vision and eye health.

Eye Health: FG Unveils Policy And Guidelines To Improve Vision

In a bid to commemorate the 2023 World Sight Day, the Nigerian government has unveiled three policy documents that will assist in improving vision and eye health in the country.

World Sight Day is observed on the second Thursday of October every year to create awareness of the importance of prioritising eye health and the theme for 2023 is: “Your Eyes at Work,” aimed at focusing the world’s attention on the importance of eye care in workplaces.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, the Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Tunji Alausa, said the policy documents and unveiling of the refractive error initiative, are part of the government’s strategic guidelines to improve eye health in the country.

The documents include the “National Eye Health Strategic Development Plan (2024-2028)”, “Diabetic Retinopathy Screening and Management Guideline,” and the “Nigeria Glaucoma Guidelines and Toolkit.”

Mr Alausa said about 24 million Nigerians are living with treatable sight loss, majorly caused by untreated cataracts and uncorrected refractive errors, hence the initiatives would aid in addressing it.

He said the initiative will help strengthen the eye health system to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), empowering Nigerians to learn, earn and thrive, mentioning that these interventions will be coordinated through the National Eye Health Programme (NEHP) in the ministry.

Mr Alausa said the roadmap to improve access to refractive error services to build the capacity of personnel, improve population education, reduce the cost and strengthen surveillance would be implemented in collaboration with partners.

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He said the NEHP in partnership with multiple stakeholders will work together to expand the training of primary health workers in eye health and provide a key platform for the delivery and integration of eye care services.

“Development of a sustainable procurement and delivery process for spectacles by upgrading existing eye care departments one state at a time. A philanthropy component will dispense free glasses to the poor to be verified by social registers,” he said.

Speaking at the event, the National Coordinator of NEHP, Oteri Okolo, said about 1.3 million persons in Nigeria are blind, hence the commitment to eye health activities through the implementation of national policies, plans and guidelines for systematic implementation nationwide.

Ms Okolo said the policy document represents the commitment of the government to the attainment of the highest quality of eye health for its people, adding that the diabetic retinopathy screening and management guideline is a framework critical to making the needed impact by increasing the opportunity for prevention and prompt treatment at early stages.

“Implementation of both guidelines by the NEHP will begin in a few weeks with an initial training of health care providers with funding and technical support from Novartis, Sightsavers and Glaucoma Net of the International Centre for Eye Health London through the Institute for Advanced Medical Research and Training, University of Abuja. We hope for full implementation and whole country scale up in the nearest future as government and the private sector increases investment in eye health.”