President Bola Tinubu has declared his support for a partnership that will provide more than 5 million pairs of eyeglasses to Nigerians with sight impairments.
Declaring his support for the initiative to be jointly carried out by the Federal Ministry of Health’s National Eye Health Programme and the Peek Vision Foundation, President Tinubu highlighted the pressing need for improved eye health services in Nigeria.
He expressed concern about the more than 24 million Nigerians grappling with varying degrees of vision impairments.
The President recounted how close to home his first intervention in eye health was as he made a pledge on behalf of the Federal Government during a courtesy visit by the Founder and CEO of Peek Vision Foundation and Co-Founder of the Vision Catalyst Fund, Prof. Andrew Bastawrous.
“My first experience was with my mother of blessed memory. She was ill and she could not recognise me. When I intervened, she was treated and given a pair of glasses. The next question she asked me was: I have you, and you are able to do this for me. What about those other women and their children who may not have somebody like you to intervene for them?”
“So, I made a promise to her that I will pursue the mass provision of eye care vigorously and that I would provide free eye screenings and surgeries to people because of that question my mother asked me and because of her passion to see others healed. We eventually impacted the eye health of millions of people in Lagos, and you could see their joy over the immediate sight enhancements when they were given a pair of glasses,” the President fondly recalled.
The Nigerian leader called for urgent action on eye health saying that sight and vision are critical to the nation’s economy.
“We must act now because sight and vision is critical to economic development and growth,” the President said, recalling his visionary “Jigi Bola” programme, which was initiated during his tenure as the Executive Governor of Lagos State in 2001 and provided free eye screenings and surgeries to Lagosians while setting a new precedent for proactive eye care initiatives in West Africa.”
He however reiterated his support for the initiative saying that he will encourage the mobilisation of further commitment to ensure the success of the initiative.
“I am in support of this initiative, and I will encourage the mobilisation of further commitment to see this through and to reach vulnerable people all across our country. Some parents may not pay attention to this, but I will, because I am touched,” the President concluded.
Expressing his commitment to the cause, Prof. Bastawrous said good vision unlocks human potentials.
“Good vision unlocks human potential. It improves earning, learning, and wellness for individuals, communities, and countries.”
STATE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE
PRESIDENT TINUBU APPROVES INITIATIVE TO PROVIDE FIVE MILLION EYEGLASSES TO NIGERIANS WITH SIGHT IMPEDIMENTS
— Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident) September 1, 2023
Professor Bastawrous noted that eye care is still chronically under-resourced in many countries, adding that the estimates in Nigeria show that 0.0002 percent of the health budget is spent on eye health.
“The good news is that President Tinubu has an excellent team in the health sector, and some of them have demonstrated tremendous leadership in the sector. What we would like to offer is to bring our Peek Vision methodology and platform to Nigeria to help unlock resources from multiple sources. In the countries where we have worked, Peek in Botswana unlocked 10 million dollars for the school programme, and in Kenya, 17 million Euros. Through the Vision Catalyst Fund, we have secured a donation of 200 million pairs of glasses, and we would like a significant proportion of that to come to Nigeria,” he concluded.
At the end of the event, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammed Ali Pate was joined by the Coordinator of the National Eye Health Programme, Dr. Oteri Okolo and the Director of Public Health, Dr. Chukuma Anyaike, as he presented a National Policy Document on Eye Health to the President.