By Christian Njoku
“Save the sight of the child’’, an outreach programme, has been launched in Cross Rivers where 33 per cent of children have visual defects.
The Nigeria Optometric Association (NOA) launched the outreach on Saturday in Calabar.
Dr Onyebuchi Ndukwe, Chairman of the association, said the programme was a continuation of the 2017 intervention titled “My sight, My right’’.
“We are looking at ages 5 to 14, at that age, most children are in school and you know that we cannot separate vision from academics; poor vision can lead to poor academic performance.
“The state government had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Brian Holding Vision Institute which would last for two years and the Nigeria Optometric Association is part of that agreement,” he said.
Ndukwe however said his association’s major challenge was reaching children in rural areas.
“Most of our members are based in Calabar and you know the distance between one local government and the other in the state.
“We are advocating for the employment of optometrists in the state civil service who will serve at the local government level to bridge the gap,’’ he said.
An optometrist, Dr Bernardine Ekpeyong, said a current research published by Ekpeyong et al, 2017, showed that refractive errors, conjunctivitis, cataract and glaucoma are some of the major eye defects affecting children in the state.
Ekpeyong revealed that out of the 33 per cent of the children with various eye defects in the state, 11 per cent would need glasses.
She also said that they discovered that 95 per cent of the children in the state had never had eye examination.
“We are pushing for physical eye examination for children before entering school in order to detect their eye problems early. Early detection is very important for prevention of blindness.
“We target children to prevent amblyopia which becomes a condition when children are not given glasses early enough to correct their sight, thereby making the defect irreversible later in life,” she said.
The expert identified poverty and ignorance as major problems in the fight as most parents were either too poor or did not see the need to take their children to a hospital when there are complaints.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr Inyang Asibong, noted that the state had a vision to make sure that children did not have visual disabilities that were preventable or could be treated.