World Sight Day: Sightsavers advocates accessibility to quality eye, general health services


By Palma Ileye

International Development Organisation, Sightsavers, has advocated the need for everyone, including remote and rural communities, women and girls, people with disabilities, should have access to the services they need.

This advocay call is contained in a press release issued yesterday by Sightsavers, Communication Associate, Joy Tarbo, in commemoration of 2023 World Sight Day which usually comes up 12 October annually.

Sightsavers noted that the advocay was for eye health to be recognised as vital part of healthcare and development.

The statement revealed, “this World Sight Day (12 October), international development organisation Sightsavers is calling on global leaders to end the geographical inequity of eye health services.

“Everyone, including remote and rural communities, women and girls, people with disabilities, should have access to the services they need.

“Yet the availability of eye health services and products like glasses varies across and within countries. They are often easily accessible in urban areas but less so in other places and for marginalised groups.

“Globally, 1.1 billion people have an untreated or preventable visual impairment1. In Nigeria, there were an estimated 24 million people with vision loss in 20202 and only 3 ophthalmologists per million people2. This is lower than the World Health Organization’s minimum recommendation of 4 ophthalmologists per million3.
Women account for more than half of blindness and visual impairment across the world1. Compared to people without disabilities, people with disabilities are also three times less likely to get the healthcare they need.”

Country Director, Sightsavers, Dr Sunday Isiyaku, said: “Eye health should be equally available to everyone, no one should be disadvantaged because of where they live, their gender, health, or background. But currently it is inaccessible for some sectors of society and even a luxury for those in urban areas.

“This needs to change. When we tackle these issues, children can learn, and adults can earn. Eye health equals a ripple effect on the lives of individuals, families, and communities, helping nations to thrive and reducing poverty and inequality.”

It stated that, Governments were working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, a set of United Nations, UN, goals which aim to reduce global poverty and inequality and protect the planet.

Sightsavers stated, “They include a target to achieve universal health coverage, UHC, ensuring everyone has access to health services. In 2021, global leaders also unanimously adopted the UN ‘Vision for Everyone’ resolution, which explicitly links eye health to all the SDGs.

“To achieve the goals and resolution, inclusive eye health is essential. Unless it is recognised as a vital part of healthcare and development, efforts to achieve the SDGs and UHC will fail. Indeed, the World Health Organization reported in September that “the world is off track to make significant progress towards universal health coverage” and that improvements to health services coverage have stagnated.

“The impact of inclusive eye health can be seen through stories such as Hadiza from Kogi State. Five years ago, she started having pain in her eyes. Being diabetic, she believed it was a side effect of her medication. Her eyesight kept getting worse by the day and her son had to help her move around. Whenever her son was not available, her daughter who lives elsewhere, had to come and support her.

“Her son heard about cataract surgeries that were being done at a Sightsavers project in collaboration with the state Ministry of Health. He took her to Ankpa hospital, where it was discovered, she had cataracts and surgery was done. She is now able to see clearly and perform daily activities with ease.”

Sightsavers also said it was supporting the Federal Ministry of Health to commemorate World Sight Day and launching the new national eye health strategy as well as a glaucoma toolkit.

Adding that the National Eye Health strategy is a roadmap to improve eye health services. This strategy is a guiding document to steer the direction of eye health for the next five years.

Also, Dr Selben Penzin, Senior Program Manager–Eye health at Sightsavers disclosed: “We are already working with the Government and other partners to improve eye health services and we commend their efforts. But more needs to be done to ensure eye health is represented in health planning, resourcing, and funding. Including people with disabilities, women, and other marginalised groups, community outreach, and a geographically spread workforce, will help reduce disparity of access.”