According to the “World Report on Vision” by the World Health Organization (WHO), about one billion of the approximately 2.2 billion cases of visual impairment or blindness are preventable. Individuals still experience visual impairment because of the financial strain they would face for seeking medical help in sight-related issues. However, Nigeria has improved access to eye care. Considering there are about 4.25 million people over the age of 40 with vision impairment, the topic of eyesight in Nigeria is pertinent. To better understand Nigeria’s story and approach to battling vision impairment, here are some facts about eyesight in Nigeria:
5 Facts About Eyesight in Nigeria
- The healthcare system for eyesight in Nigeria is largely unequal for low-income and rural populations. Financially, the cost of eye exams and transportation to eye clinics are not affordable for many Nigerians. Moreover, people in rural communities lack education, information and resources that would better explain the facts behind vision impairment. This is amplified by the lack of trained, dispersed staff who would otherwise introduce the available resources for vision care. Overall, all of these factors disproportionally obstruct people in rural communities from getting the care that they need.
- The most common impairments for eyesight in Nigeria include cataracts, glaucoma and other preventable diseases. With early diagnosis, many of these diseases can be corrected with the use of medicines and glasses. Routine check-ups are not a norm in Nigeria. In turn, this has adversely impacted eyesight for many Nigerians. As a result, conducting studies, spreading awareness and international pressure have led Nigeria and other developing countries to create task forces that specifically focus on access to vision care.
- From 2005 to 2007, the “National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey” was conducted to measure eyesight in Nigeria. This was the first survey to calculate vision data of individuals over 40 in the country. The survey results helped the state mobilize appropriate resources towards vision rehabilitation. Additionally, the study provided data for international initiatives, such as the World Health Organization’s “Vision 2020: The Right to Sight,” that also hope to alleviate impaired vision.
- WHO and The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) launched “Vision 2020: The Right to Sight” in 1999. Over the past two decades, this project made eye care a primary public health issue. The project set a target to reduce avoidable visual impairment by 25 percent by 2019. Nigeria’s participation in Vision 2020 allowed it to increase vision care accessibility for low-income individuals. Due to Nigeria’s overwhelming success in vision care, it has established eye care standards that other developing countries are striving to achieve.
- Companies, such as VisionSpring, help to provide eyewear to low-income communities around the world. VisionSpring sees the earning potential of an individual with the proper eyewear. From being able to see course work as a student to being able to drive safely as an adult, there are many possibilities in adequate eyewear. The average cost of glasses that address nearsightedness in Nigeria is around $0.85 per pair. As of 2018, VisionSpring has distributed about 6.8 million glasses to 43 countries. The impact of companies that are focusing on affordable prices for underserved communities has been enormous in the effort to alleviate global vision impairment.
Eyesight is fundamental to the quality of life and productivity of an individual. Nonetheless, eye care still does not garner as much attention it should in low and middle-income countries. Fortunately, international organizations, companies and efforts from individual countries, like Nigeria, have emerged to ensure better access to eyesight for vulnerable populations.
– Ashleigh Litcofsky