Stakeholders decry surge in cases of blindness in Plateau

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Stakeholders in the Health Sector have decried the rise in various eye diseases among Plateau residents leading to the surge in cases of blindness in the state

Some of the stakeholders said this at a meeting recently organised in Jos to review the result of the Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) survey conducted in 2023 in the state.

The survey, conducted in the 17 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state, was supported by Sightsavers Nigeria, Christian Blind Mission International (CBMI) and Health and Development Support (HANDS).

Dr Alice Ramyil, a Consultant Ophthalmologist with the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) and the Principal Researcher for the survey, decried the prevalence of blindness in the state.

She explained that the state currently has a 2.7 per cent prevalence of blindness against the national figure of 0.7 per cent.

She said that according to the survey, Bokkos LGA has the highest prevalence of avoidable blindness in Plateau, adding that the cases in the locality were at 16.3 per cent

“We discovered that the prevalence of blindness in the state is higher than the national quoted value; we have a prevalence of 2.7 per cent which is way higher than the 0.7 per cent national figure.

”The main causes of blindness in the state are cataracts and glaucoma, and these conditions are avoidable.

“For those with mild to moderate visual impairment and refractive error could easily be corrected with glasses.

”We are to up our game in the provision of quality eye care to tackle these conditions and this is why we are here.

”There are surgeries for cataracts but the cost is high and the coverage is not enough. We need to improve our output and quality to attract people with eye conditions,” the expert said.

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Dr Sunday Isiyaku, the Country Director of Sightsavers in Nigeria and Ghana, said that his organisation had supported the Plateau government to set up an eye health programme in the state.

He explained that it had carried out some interventions in 2023, adding that the RAAB survey further revealed the magnitude of the challenges and how his organisation could support the government in addressing the menace.

”We have supported the state government to set up an eye health programme and we enjoyed a successful working relationship in 2023.

”The survey has revealed a lot of gaps and what we want to do is to see how we can roll out our services particularly in the southern and central parts of the state, by ensuring that anyone with eye condition gets access to proper treatment.

”The survey has also given us an insight into what the issues are and the magnitude of the cases; we now know where to invest resources toward ensuring that Plateau residents have healthy sights.

”We want to commend the state for providing the enabling environment for us to operate and we pray this relationship will be sustained,” he said.

Also Speaking, Dr. Obiarairiaku Ukeme-Edet of CBMI, said that the huge gap in eye health in the state motivated her organisation to commit resources toward strengthening the system to address the concern.

She added that the programme had provided CBMI the opportunity to reach out to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the state, being one of its focal areas.

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”We are deeply interested in the poor and vulnerable, especially PWDs.

”This is an opportunity to reach out to this category of persons with our services,” she said

Abalis Dasat, the Eye Health Manager of HANDS said that the survey revealed that unoperated cataracts, glaucoma, cataract surgical complications, and refractive error, among others, are the main causes of blindness in the state.

“The state government through its Ministry of Health has been in partnership with donor partners like Sightsavers International and CBMI.

”As a result of the partnership, the RAAB survey was carried out. Our concern is that no one needs to be blind, needlessly.

“The survey shows the magnitude of blindness that is particularly avoidable; we now know some of the hidden facts about the magnitude of blindness in Plateau.

”Moving forward, we are going to be guided; we are no longer going to be working based on assumptions but statistically directed because of the outcome of the survey,” he said.

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