By Vincent Ujumadu
Awka—NIGERIAN Optometrists have expressed worry over lack of statistics for visual impairment in the country, even as the Nigerian Optometrists Association estimates that 42 out of every 1,000 Nigerians were visually impaired.
Speaking during an advocacy visit to the Anambra State ministry of health, yesterday, as part of activities to mark the World Sight Day in Awka, the state chairman of the assiciation, Dr. Obi Ifeanyi said that Nigeria still relies on the 2005-2008 National Blindness Survey of people over 40 years which was when the 42 per 1,000 blindness was arrived at.
He said though the world population was aging and people living longer, blindness from chronic conditions was rising, such that about 286 million people are blind globally.
According to him, the most worrisome aspect of the situation was that over 80 per cent of the disability was due to causes that could have been prevented, treated or cured, adding that 90 per cent of people with visual impairment were in developing countries, Nigeria included.
He said: “Visual impairment becomes more worrisome in children due to the significant role played by visual experience in the physical, intellectual and psychological development of the child. Also, undiagnosed and untreated vision problems go hand in hand with poor academic performance and loss of interest in school.”
He added that with just about 3000 Optometrists catering for over 150 million people in Nigeria, skilled manpower in the eye care profession was grossly inadequate, adding that more worrisome was the fact that the professionals were concentrated in the urban and semi urban centers, thus depriving majority of the people of the basic eye care.
While noting that there were only 65 Optometrists in Anambra State, with 30 working in government health institutions and 35 in private practice, Ifeanyi called on the Anambra State government to employ more Optometrists as primary eye care providers and post them to the local government and rural communities in order to make the elimination of avoidable blindness a reality.
The state director of medical services, Dr, Nathaniel Ojekwu who spoke on behalf of the state government, commended the Optometrists for being proactive, assuring them of the state government’s readiness to assist them in their practice.