President Bola Tinubu, on Friday approved distribution of over five million pairs of eyeglasses to Nigerians with sight impairments under a partnership between the Federal Ministry of Health’s National Eye Health Programme and the Peek Vision Foundation.
Special Adviser on media and publicity to the President Ajuri Ngelale in a statement said Tinubu 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.
The President said, “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.
While hghlighting the pressing need for improved eye health services in Nigeria, President Tinubu expressed concern about the more than 24 million Nigerians grappling with varying degrees of vision impairments.
“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.
“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 potential. It improves earning, learning, and wellness for individuals, communities, and countries.”
He shared his personal story and the transformative power of vision care:
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,” he added.
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.