President Bola Tinubu, on Friday, September 1, declared his support for a partnership between the Federal Ministry of Health’s National Eye Health Programme and the Peek Vision Foundation to provide more than 5 million pairs of eyeglasses to Nigerians with sight impairments.
According to the statement, the President who made a pledge on behalf of the federal government during the visit, recounted how close to home his first intervention in eye health was, narrating how his late mother encouraged him to take up the challenge of providing vision care for the needy of society.
President fondly recalled: “My first experience was with my mother of blessed memory. She was ill and she could not recognise me. When I intervened, she was treated and given a pair of glasses. The next question she asked me was: I have you, and you are able to do this for me. What about those other women and their children who may not have somebody like you to intervene for them?
“So I made a promise to her that I would pursue the mass provision of eye care vigorously and that I would provide free eye screenings and surgeries to people because of that question my mother asked me and because of her passion to see others healed.“We eventually impacted the eye health of millions of people in Lagos, and you could see their joy over the immediate sight enhancements when they were given a pair of glasses.”
Highlighting the pressing need for improved eye health services in Nigeria, President Tinubu expressed concern about the more than 24 million Nigerians grappling with varying degrees of vision impairments.
“We must act now because sight and vision is critical to economic development and growth,” the President said, recalling his visionary “Jigi Bola” programme, which was initiated during his tenure as the Executive Governor of Lagos State in 2001 and provided free eye screenings and surgeries to Lagosians while setting a new precedent for proactive eye care initiatives in West Africa.
“I am in support of this initiative, and I will encourage the mobilisation of further commitment to see this through and to reach vulnerable people all across our country. Some parents may not pay attention to this, but I will, because I am touched,” the President concluded.
Expressing his commitment to the cause, Prof. Bastawrous said: “Good vision unlocks human potential. It improves earning, learning, and wellness for individuals, communities, and countries.
“When I was 12, I was told by my teachers that I was clumsy and lazy, but the results of an eye exam explained I had very poor vision. And when I put on a pair of glasses, I saw the leaves on a tree for the first time, and my life completely changed two weeks later, I was wearing my first pair of free eyeglasses and I saw stars clearly for the first time. My grades improved, and the trajectory of my life completely changed, all because of a very cheap intervention that was 700 years old. Had that not happened, I would not be standing in front of you today. I would not be a professor, and I would not be involved in the work I am doing because sight gives opportunity.