His Excellency President Bola Tinubu has pledged to provide unwavering support to improve access to eye health for people across Nigeria. He made the commitment during a meeting with eye health sector representatives led by Peek Vision co-founder and CEO, Professor Andrew Bastawrous, on 1 September 2023.
The meeting was facilitated by a delegation of the Federal Ministry of Health led by the Honourable Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate. Included in his team were Dr Chukwuma Anyaike, the Director Public Health, and Dr Oteri Okolo, Coordinator of the National Eye Health Programme.
Professor Bastawrous was accompanied by Professor Afekhide Omoti, representing the Nigerian eye health community; Dr Fatima Kyari, the subregional Chair (West Africa) for the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and a member of the Programmes Expert Committee of the Vision Catalyst Fund; Dr Sunday Isyaku, the Nigeria Country Director of Sightsavers and Mr Omoi Ozovehe, the Nigeria Country Programme Manager for CBM International.
President Tinubu described his personal attachment to the cause, recalling a promise he had made to his late mother to provide vision care to the most vulnerable. He was excited about the potential to elevate eye care services in Nigeria, saying “We must act now because sight and vision is critical to economic development and growth… 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.”
After the meeting, Professor Bastawrous reflected "For decades, many outstanding eye care professionals and organisations have worked tirelessly to improve the eye health of people in Nigeria. Despite current efforts, the problem is growing and an estimated 24 million people are now living with vision loss. A major increase in resources, prioritisation and integration is needed if we are going to see the tide turn. The President's commitment has the potential to be the catalyst for change that could result in millions of people accessing affordable, quality eye care."
Peek Vision is a social enterprise that powers eye health programme providers to strengthen systems and service delivery with a software and data intelligence platform. This data driven approach helps eye health programmes become more efficient and effective. Peek technology is currently powering programmes in twelve countries across Africa and Asia, reaching more than a quarter of a million people each month.
As part of efforts to increase access to eye care in Nigeria, Peek is working with CBM, with guidance from the Federal Ministry of Health, on plans to use Peek technology for a community and school eye health pilot programme in Plateau State. A potential future partnership with Sightsavers is also in discussion that would facilitate increased access and scale.
The Honourable Minister, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, affirmed the President’s commitment. He said the vision is to make eye health available, accessible and affordable to all, through integration at all levels of care – tertiary, secondary and primary healthcare. He stated that the health budget will be increased and a good portion of it will be provided for eye health and vision care.
The National Eye Health Programme secretariat were emboldened by the commitments made during the Presidential meeting, and immediately began work on how to move them forward.