The World Sight Day is the most important advocacy and communications event on the eye health calendar. Observed annually on the second Thursday of October, it is a global event to draw attention to blindness and vision impairment. On this day, the NAB/WBU in collaboration with other organizations provide information to raise awareness regarding eye care. One of the priorities of collaborating ORGANIZATIONS is to ensure the prevention of sight loss through advocacy for affordable and accessible eye health services, as well as providing referrals to appropriate service providers.
Around 253 million people live with vision impairment worldwide, 36 million of whom are totally blind. The vast majority have disproportionately low-income, even when compared with their sighted counterparts in less advanced countries. Globally, uncorrected refractive errors such as glaucoma and un-operated cataracts are the top two causes of vision impairment. The defects include: long sightedness, short sightedness, low vision, most of which defects can be corrected through eye health interventions recommended by the world health organization, vision 2020 among others. More than 80% of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured with measures which focus on increasing access to quality, comprehensive eye care services, especially at the community level (WHO)
The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health stipulated under the CRPD (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) includes provision of accessible eye care services nearer to the community. This obligation has been accepted by about 174 states parties that ratified the Convention. However, this right manifests several challenges: There are very few eye care doctors, ophthalmologists and optometrists that provide eye care services in the communities across the world; Most families are not aware of existing eye care services; These services are under funded by governments and are not available, accessible and affordable to those who need them; Eye glasses are too expensive for those who need them.
The World Sight Day is therefore significant to raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment, influence governments to participate in and designate funds for national blindness prevention programmes and educate the public about blindness prevention.
During this World Sight Day celebrations, which will hold on October 11, WE provide the following advice and call for action:
• It is important for all children and adults to have their eyes screened once a year to avoid preventable sight loss.
• Governments AND ORGANIZATIONS should make appropriate budgetary allocations to conduct the following activities: Construct vision corridors to enable village health teams and nurses to conduct eye health screening; conduct eye health services in schools to ensure that children get the best eyecare; conduct outreach clinics to provide eye care services; provide eye glasses at subsidized costs; provide medical examination equipment in all hospitals and health centers; encourage training of doctors, optometrists and ophthalmologists to improve their skills in eye health.
• We also encourage radio and television campaigns to sensitize the public about eye conditions and interventions.
If this is done, we are sure that governments would have taken some of the necessary steps to meet their obligation to provide eye care services to blind and partially sighted persons across the globe.
The Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB) is the national organization that represents the estimated 6.8 million people in our country who are blind or partially sighted. Its members can be found in all 36 states and FCT chapters advocating for friendly policies in line with the UNCRPD. Website: www.nigeriaassociationoftheblind.org
Contact: Miss Oluwakemi Odusanya, Administrative Officer