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Lagos moves to eliminate childhood blindness

*Screens 65,587 pupils; trains 1,304 teachers on poor vision

By  CHIOMA OBINNA

With a report from the World Health Organisation, WHO showing that developing countries like Nigeria contribute 60 percent of children out of the 500,000 children that become blind each year, the Lagos state government has moved to eliminate childhood blindness in the state.

To this end, the State government has screened and managed appropriately over 65,587 pupils as well as trained a total of 1,304 teachers on how to identify early a pupil that has poor vision.

According to the WHO report, no fewer than 1.5 million children are blind in the world unfortunately, 60 percent of these children die within 1 year of going blind and about 50 percent of causes of childhood blindness are preventable or treatable.

Speaking in Lagos, the State Commissioner for Health Dr. Jide Idris who noted that good eye sight is key to academic success, said the  school eye screening programme was initiated in 2000, it was  expanded in 2012 to reduce the prevalence of avoidable blindness in the state.

“Poor vision and eye health significantly affect the capacity of children to learn and succeed academically.  Not seeing clearly means being less able to learn as fast or as well as children with good vision leading to lower marks, de-motivation and demoralisation, social and emotional problems frequently accompany educational problem.”

Already 501 schools have been equipped with vision screening kits to carry out eye screening for the pupils.

Idris announced further expansion of the programme and hinted that plans have been concluded to train two teachers from each school, as well as installation of Vision Corridor in the 802 schools in the state. The free eye screening programme is also to be extended to all schools in Lagos.

Director of the Eye Free School Programme, Dr. Shokunbi Olufunmilayo said out of the 17,572 pupils already screened, 13,626 have poor vision and have been issued corrective glasses while those with minor disorders treated appropriately.

Meanwhile, the second batch of the teachers’ training is ongoing, even as Olufunmilayo  expressed worry at the rate at which children come down with poor eyesight. “Mothers should immunise their children with all the vaccines made available by the government and also vitamin A supplements during immunisation.

Nursing mothers should also learn to breast feed their children appropriately.
“School children should always read with good source of light not dim light and they should not expose themselves too much to sun light,” she added.


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