MBAKAAN KWEN captures how First Bank of Nigeria Limited recently gave relief to thousands of visually-impaired people.
Data from the National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey are alarming and reinforce the need for urgent action to reduce the prevalence and causes of blindness and visual impairment in the country.
Findings from the survey, conducted between 2005 and 2007 which is still the most current data, estimate that 1.13 million individuals aged 40 years and above were currently blind in Nigeria; 2.7 million adults aged 40 years and above or below live with moderate visual impairment, while additional 400,000 adults were severely visually impaired. Overall, 4.25 million adults aged 40 years and above or below in Nigeria were either visually impaired or blind.
Aware that this is a situation that government alone cannot resolve, the minister of health, Professor Isaac Adewole, during the 42nd Annual Conference and 50th anniversary of the Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) earlier this year in Abuja, urged professionals to strengthen optometry in the country to respond to the huge need.
Fittingly, it is not only optometrists that are responding to Adewole’s call to action, others including NGOs, corporates and individuals are also providing interventions to restore sight to affected Nigerians.
Nigeria’s leading banking services solutions provider and the premier bank in West Africa, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, is one of the corporate organisations at the forefront of giving hope to people with visual disabilities.
The bank recently reaffirmed that its vision is not all about profit making but impacting the lives of its customers and communities in many positive ways, one of which is by providing free vision screening and affordable eyeglasses as one of the core initiatives of the second edition of its Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CR&S) Week themed: ‘Touching Lives; You First,’ held from June 19 to 23, 2018.
First Bank, which commemorated the week across its business communities in Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra-Leone, Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo and United Kingdom, partnered with Vision Spring, a pioneering, global social enterprise providing access to affordable eyewear in order to give succour to its customers, local community members, low income earners and students amongst others with impaired vision.
Well aware of the benefits of good vision including being able to work and earn money, acquiring knowledge and staying safe as they go about their daily activities, FirstBank and Vision Spring provided free eye screening and discounted eyeglasses to 2000 people during its CS& R week with plans to scale it up to 10,000 people in the next couple of years.
Speaking at the launch of the partnership in Abuja on Tuesday, June 19, executive director, Public Sector, FirstBank, Abdullahi Ibrahim, applauded the initiative and expressed optimism that it would help drive sustainable development.
Ibrahim, who highlighted First Bank’s fruitful partnerships with various stakeholders in the past over 124 years of existence, added that its impact traverses virtually every sector of the economy.
Such partnerships, he added, have also provided the opportunity for the bank to help create an enabling platform for small and medium-scale enterprises to thrive and develop the national economy.
Giving more insight into the partnership with Vision Spring, Ibrahim explained that it was designed to advance social impact by providing vision screening and affordable eyeglasses for low-income earners.
“We believe that a committed, well-funded and well-implemented partnership with Vision Spring will enhance our goals as a responsible corporate citizen, focusing on promoting quality education; good health and welfare for its stakeholders,” he said.
The partnership, Ibrahim continued, was also in line with the bank’s financial inclusion and financial literacy approach which promotes accessible and affordable financial products and services to disadvantaged groups including the visually impaired with the goal of bringing these marginalised populations into the mainstream economy, improving their chances for resilient livelihoods and financial stability.
In partnering with Vision Spring by providing eyeglasses for the bank’s stakeholders with impaired vision such as the customers, local community members and students where the bank operates, the bank would be advancing social and economic impact.
With good vision, the beneficiaries can work and earn; they can also acquire knowledge. Good vision can equally enable beneficiaries to stay safe as they go about their day to day activities.
Also speaking, technical adviser, Vision Spring, Dr. Friday Oke, commended First Bank and noted that the partnership would help in driving sustainable development in the country and ensure that beneficiaries were financially independent.
He enjoined other corporate organisations to sponsor vision screening for low-income earners and reiterated that Nigerians need to check their eyes at least once annually for early detection of conditions that could lead to loss of eyesight.
According to Oke,” People cannot realise their potential without clear vision; proper vision is essential for full participation. Therefore, it is advised you check your eyes at least once a year.
“We want to start outreaches where people benefit from screening to avoid conditions that could lead to blindness. Our focus is the bottom-of-the-pyramid individuals, those who cannot afford to pay the price for proper check and glasses.”
Two thousand people in Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones were beneficiaries of the First Bank/Vision Spring partnership to provide free eye screening and affordable eyeglasses, a key component of the 2018 CR&S Week that focused on four other key initiatives.
They were donating and visiting orphanages/less privileged homes and IDPs.They also did career counselling for secondary school students, Staff Promoting Acts of Random Kindness (SPARK) aimed at encouraging people to be kind and an empowerment programme for over 500 widows in commemoration of the 2018 Widows Day in partnership with the International Women’s Society.
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