By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Statistics from the Nigerian National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey showed that 42 out of every 1,000 adults aged 40 and above, are blind and overall, two out of every three Nigerians are blinded by avoidable causes like cataract.
Currently, 750,000 Nigerians are already blinded by cataract and an additional 200,000 become blind each year, according to the Survey. Cataracts are changes in clarity of the natural lens inside the eye that gradually degrade visual quality.
The Nigerian National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey showed that there are estimated 486,000 adults in the country who are in immediate need of cataract surgery and if nothing is done to save the vision of these Nigerians and many others, a recent study has predicted that by 2020, 1.4 million Nigerians over age 40 will lose their sights, and majority of the causes will be either preventable or treatable if appropriate and accessible refraction and surgical services needed to be provided are not put in place.
Undoubtedly, it is unusual to have infants under the age of one year being affected by eye-related defects, let alone cataract, which could lead to blindness if not treated early.
The Lagos State Government, in partnership with Rotary Club of Lagos Palmgrove Estate, through Indo Eye Hospital, and Senator Gbenga Ashafa, representing Lagos East Senatorial District sponsored the Mission for Vision 2017-18, planned to conduct 1,400 free cataract operations for those suffering from preventable blindness but lack the financial resources to finance the surgery.
After the initial pre-surgery examinations, the team of surgeons later shortlisted patients for the operation. This pre-surgery examination was conducted at the eye specialty hospital being built by the Indo Eye Care Foundation along International Airport Road, Ajao Estate, while the surgeries were done at the Lagos State General Hospital, Marina, Lagos.
At the end of the exercise, as at March 10, 2018, the mission had completed 1,400 successful surgeries on cataract and eye- related diseases. This list includes about 25 children, the youngest being eight months old, disabled persons and many senior citizens.
Speaking at the event held at Lagos Island General Hospital, Ashafa who commended the immense contribution of Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu’s contribution to the successful exercise, urged Nigerians, particularly, politicians to be selfless and show more commitment to humanitarian service to the society.
According to him, “This is a big lesson to most of us holding political positions to come forward and help the less privileged. For every step we take, we must be thinking of the future and render selfless service to the society. This is what the state government, Rotary Club and other donors are doing.
“You can’t really feel the importance of this exercise until you have a relation with such health challenge. What this programme has done was to restore hope and life to the dead.
“For me, I am dedicating my life as a politician to selfless service in this area of bringing back vision to those in the dark.
“I urge other politicians, who I am representing, not to sit down at home and leave everything to government alone. We should be part of the solution in the developmental growth of Nigerians and Nigeria.”
Also speaking at the event attended by Rotarian Wale Ogunbadejo, District Governor, Rotary Club, Lagos State, Mr. Atul Kasheetry, President, Rotary Club of Palmgroove Estate, said the Indian community in Nigeria, the State’s Ministry of Health and Senator Ashafa, co-sponsored the programme.