DR UCHE ISAH IWUANYANWU is a Senior Medical Officer with the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Brini Kebbi, Jigawa State. In this interview, he revealed the major causes of blindness in Nigeria and the need for the government to incorporate eye care services in Primary Health Care (PHC).
To a layman, what is low vision? And what does your job entails
Low vision means someone that cannot see like others, a vision that is lower than normal. I coordinate low vision, I am the head of the unit. I coordinate both the clinical and managerial aspects of low vision. So we treat and also administer drugs to patients.
What are the dangers of low vision and how you have seen it in the field?
It is very pathetic that Nigerians have not developed that interest to take care of their eyes and the unfortunate aspect is that blindness don’t know anybody, religion or tribe. If you don’t take care of your eyes, blindness will set in and once you are blind you know the economic cost, the social challenge.
It is imperative that the government establish eye clinics, in short, eye care should be included in the primary health services of Nigeria so that it can go round. This is because most of the eye care professionals are concentrated in the urban areas.
Also, there is the need for the recruitment of more manpower because currently, we have very few eye doctors in the country.
Also, government should try and establish more training schools because, as of now, there are only 7 training schools in the country.
Government should invest more in eye care education, most NGOs are ready to work, some of them need to be motivated, the platform should be created by government. Private sector can come in but government should push up the policy that will encourage the private sector to come in.
We have just two years before 2020 and the goal set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is that by 2020, anything blindness should be prevented but we are still far down the ladder. We cannot attain the goal because of government’s negligence.
Is there any statistics on the number of blind people in Nigeria?
A lot of people, as I talk to you are blind. 45 million people are blind worldwide and in Nigeria, the current statistic is close to 20 million.
What are the major causes of blindness?
We have the major causes like glaucoma, uncorrected detected errors, phonier, diabetes, hypertension, low vision too, measles, arthritics, HIV/AIDS, untreated cardiac infection.
We have discovered that so many diseases people refer to ordinary can cause blindness. The eye is the centre of the body and most or everything that affect the body even malaria can affect the eye, people that react to everything or have high allergic profile can trigger eye problem, so it is a complex thing and that is why we are saying that government should try and recruit more hands.
You wrote a book titled ‘Learning with Healthy eyes’, can you let us in into what this book is all about?
I am a passionate eye doctor. I have passion to prevent blindness and I discover that when you want to tackle a problem, you start from the grassroots, the primary level. Most of us have children or wards that we take care of and most of our children have influence on their parents. I saw that some of our parents used to read newspapers and I know that children can start changing some things in the aspect of blindness, so, I decided to target primary school pupils.
This book in summary is to teach pupils the basic ways and skills of preventing eye problem and preventing blindness.