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Experts call for employment of more optometrists in health centers

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By Buchi Iwuji, Owerri

The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA), Imo state chapter, have urged Imo state government to integrate more optometric care oriented programs and facilities into state primary health care development agency to address the burden and scourge of blindness in the rural areas.

Briefing newsmen in Owerri on programmes slated for the state’s  2019 world sight day celebration WSD, Dr. Nwosu Chinaka, the acting chairman of NOA, Imo state, disclosed that majority of people with visual impairment globally could have avoided the condition if they were given proper information by qualified optometrists.

He noted that the theme of this year’s WSD, “My Sight, My Right” was carefully chosen to sensitise everyone on the importance of consistent medical eye-check, even at the rural areas.

Chinaka stated that with the increasing cases of avoidable blindness in the state, there is need for government to urgently engage more qualified optometrists in order to penetrate the rural areas for proper counseling, awareness and sensitisation of the people on steps to prevent blindness.

The optometrists insisted that government should be strongly involved in the onslaught against blindness by equipping the health institutions, particularly the eye departments, with modern eye treating equipment and in the training of optometrists; adding that trachoma, cataract and glaucoma have remained the primary diseases responsible for blindness in rural communities in the state.

According to him, a recent study done in five communities in Imo state among adult population group shows that 39 percent of the populations are visually impaired in various degrees, while 6.9 percent are obvious blind with leading causes as refractive errors, cataract and glaucoma.”

He disclosed that NOA has, over 10 years as an association, steadily put in efforts with help from within and other well meaning individuals carried out periodic eye screening exercises across the state to mark notable international program created by an arm of the association, the Women Optometrists in Nigeria.

“My Sight My Right” “is part of the corporate social responsibilities, CSR, of NOA to mark our 50th anniversary for children ages 5-14 with volunteer eyes centre championing the course throughout the program.

“The 2019 world sight day seeks to lay concentration on the vulnerable group with reference to internally displaced persons, those in the correctional centers nationwide, people with disabilities, widows and the orphans,” he noted.

He disclosed that the association would carry out free screening and treatment at three centres, including federal prisons, Owerri, the old veterans home in Onuimo LGA and Akpodim Rehabilitation Centre, Mbaise.

Chinaka also informed that NOA have decided to carry out free vision screening for members of the public in all optometric clinics in Imo state on October 10. He maintained that the association hopes to treat the approximately 1.3 billion lives with some forms of visual impairment and 36 million people, who are blind in the nearest future. He regretted that the majority of people with visual impairment are women.

Chief Chris Akaronye, a retired senior civil servant, commended the association for their efforts in tackling the crisis in the state. 

“Blindness is something that can inflict an irreparable damage on one’s life and losing sight at any point in time means losing one’s personality and all that one has projected in one’s life; hence, the need for proper counseling and awareness on the importance of good sight in one’s life,” he said.

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