INTERVIEW: How Nigeria can reduce burden of blindness – Expert

Prof. Benedictus Ajayi, an ophthalmologist at the Eleta Eye Institute, says Nigeria needs to pay urgent attention to eye healthcare in order to reduce the burden of blindness.

Ajayi said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan on Monday while reflecting on the achievements of the institute since its establishment 10 years ago.

He stated that it was imperative to address the factors resulting in rising cases of loss of eyesight such as lack of eye care  facilities and  manpower as well as harmful practices.

The expert said many causative factors resulting in blindness were  preventable if the right policies were in place.

”Simple cataracts still abound unattended to in large numbers and also glaucoma which can be a silent killer.

”The greatest challenge we have is getting the right people to service and train them for the job, which was why I entered the profession.

”Another challenge is financing;  as it is now,  nobody is giving us money from abroad and there is no support from any quarters.

“But I know that Nigerians can do a lot more to help Nigerians and that is the greatest concern I have,  that is Nigerians have to come to the rescue of Nigerians.

”It doesn’t cost a lot to support eye care; people can support the patients for care, they can as well support the hospitals to buy the needed equipment and consumables so as to bring down the cost for the people,” Ajayi said.

The ophthalmologist  called for a halt to medical tourism and renewed focus on developing the nation’s healthcare system.

”People don’t know that anytime they go abroad to spend our money they are impoverishing the people here.

“One, you are not allowing the doctors who have the skills here to develop because they are not using it for the class of people like you.

”Secondly, the facilities are not going to be developed because it is unprofitable buying expensive equipment when all the patients who could afford it go abroad.

“ The finances that could help other people are being ferried abroad because of one person,” he said.

Ajayi, however, called for proactive steps to be taken to reduce cases of blindness.

“ There are as many people with cataract in Nigeria as with the population of Oyo State, there are about enough people with glaucoma to fill Ogun State;  that is the magnitude of the problem at hand,’’ he said. (NAN)