Restoring eyesight initiative makes progress nationwide

Former Minister of Health, President, Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy and Chairman MTN Foundation, Prince Julius Adelusi – Adeluyi (left); Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose; Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Ms. Nonny Ugboma; Director MTN Foundation, Mr. Denis Okoro and some of the beneficiaries at the closing Ceremony of the MTN Foundation EyeRIS Restoration Intervention Scheme at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti

* Adelusi-Adeluyi, Fayose commend MTN Foundation’s EyeRIS programme in Ekiti
* 6,000 residents benefit from free eye screening, reading glasses, surgeries

As part of efforts to eliminate preventable blindness nationwide, the MTN Foundation under its health portfolio has partnered with the Eye Foundation for Centre for the prevention of blindness to implement the EyeRIS Restoration Intervention scheme tagged the MTNF EyeRIS.

Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that about 90 of all blind people live in the developing world, and cataracts, which is avoidable and can be treated, cause most of these cases of blindness.

It is estimated that about one million Nigerians are blind and another 3.1million are said to be living with one form of visual impairment or the other. Studies have shown that these individuals conduct their day-to-day activities with significant difficulty and the overwhelming majority of them do not have access to proper treatment of facilities.

In perspective a lot of these cases can be avoided. Indeed, the WHO estimates that 80 of global blindness are preventable.

The MTN Foundation’s EyeRIS Restoration Programme in Ekiti state has been described as a largely impactful and people oriented intervention that will help to improve the healthcare sector in the state by Former Minister of Health and President, Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy, Prince Julius Adelusi – Adeluyi, and the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.

The Adelusi – Adeluyi, who is also the Chairman MTN Foundation, and Fayose gave the commendation recently during the phase 2 of the MTN Foundation’s EyeRIS Restoration Programme held at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti.

The initiative, which was part of the foundation’s commitment to complement government efforts at improving the nation’s health sector offered free health consultancy to thousands of residents in the state capital.

Fayose, in his welcome address, said that there was no better time for corporate organizations to support government than now and stressed the need for corporate organizations in Nigeria to key into the public-private-partnership initiative of his administration to give back to the society.

He said: “The time for positive and impactful partnership is now; this administration is ready to collaborate with well meaning corporate organizations in Nigeria to key into our public-private-partnership platform and give back to the society, MTN Foundation has proven that this kind of partnership is not only achievable but can also help to improve the standard of living of the common people.”

“We appreciate the MTN Foundation for fulfilling its corporate social responsibility by assisting us in reducing maternal mortality through this project. “We will collaborate with MTN Nigeria and work with them to ensure smooth business with them in Ekiti state,” Fayose added.

Adelusi – Adeluyi said the Foundation has been actively engaged in the war to stop the spread of visual disabilities such as blindness, which affects millions of people globally, with a majority in Africa, Asia and South America.

“Today, in your beautiful fountain of knowledge state, we are consolidating our efforts to eliminate preventable blindness nationwide,” he said.

Adelusi-Adeluyi added: “At least 6,000 people were offered free treatment for cataract and other ocular diseases at the popular Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti.”

Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Ms. Nonny Ugboma, said the MTNF EyeRIS project is a response to Nigeria’s low vision and high blindness prevalence rate, which in most cases can be described to cataracts.

Ugboma said the intervention is aimed at curbing blindness in Nigeria. In phase 1, more than 34,000 patients in 6 states (Osun, Abia, Delta, Niger, Sokoto and Jigawa) benefited from the project comprising: 10,610 cataract operation, 11,964 pairs of glasses and 11,808 drugs packs

She said under phase 2, six more states were selected to benefit from the project Ogun, Imo, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Kwara where the project has been successfully completed and Ekiti state where we are today. “More than 32,000 patients have benefitted from this phase of the project made up of more than 8,000 free cataracts surgeries, 12,000 free reading glasses and 12, 0000 free drug packs,” Ugboma said.

She added: “The intervention was done for a period of two weeks and has provided us a veritable platform for data collection for epidemiological studies, operational research and planning of disease control.

“The MTNF EyeRIS project is endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Health and executed in collaboration with the Ekiti state Ministry of health. The project has been implemented by the Eye Foundation Centre for the prevention of blondeness (EFCPB), the not-for-profit RM OF THE Eye Foundation Group (EFG), a reputable organization and ophthalmological service provider with competence and experience in conducting such medical outreach projects across the country.”

Reacting on how the selection process for the benefitting states was conducted, Ugboma explained: “It is worthy of note that MTNF, through several national newspapers advertorials in June 2014 called for the submission of expressions of interest (EOI) from the state ministries of health for consideration. 11 submissions were received and subjected to a thorough selection process hinged on clearly defined qualitative and quantitative criteria.

“The shortlisted states were then visited in September 2014 by MTNF projects teams to verify claims which resulted in Ekiti and 5 other states being selected as beneficiaries of the project.”

One of the beneficiaries of the MTNF EyeRIS programme, Remi Lekunsholola said, “Before my coming, I cannot read and write as an educationist. I cannot even watch television or drive. But with this help from the MTN Foundation I can now do things clearly and perfectly. I can drive and see miles ahead of me.”

Another beneficiary, Abayormi Akinsoya Akinloye, a retired federal officer from Aramorkor Ekiti state, said: “When I came here last week, I was given a number. But luckily for me a doctor attended to me. I explained to him that I did my left eye surgery last year, and I am about doing the other eye surgery.

“Finally I did the operation for the left eye, and it was so successful. Before now, I couldn’t use the left eye for anything, but as we speak I can see clearly with my eyes. I was not charged anything for this.

“The humanitarian help they are doing is truly touching. For example pensioners who don’t have anything like me see this as a lifetime opportunity. Eyesight is the head of the body. I thank them for transforming my life.”

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