After giving out 2,000 eyeglasses to residents of Lagos few months ago, First Bank continues to strengthen initiatives that promote good sight thereby helping to reduce avoidable blindness among Nigerians. With its strategic international partner, Vision Spring, it recently feted 1,000 aged persons and students with another free vision screening and eyeglasses mission. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE reports.
“My eyes sometimes give me a headache; I squeeze them and they bring out water. They tested me, and the doctor said I needed glasses; now they have given me,” were the words of Raji Abdulaziz, a student of Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) Secondary School, Lagos.
He is among the 1,000 beneficiaries of the free eye screening, medicine and glasses provided by First Bank in partnership with Vision Spring during a recent one-week exercise from November 5 to 9 to reduce blindness among Nigerians.
Olamide Clement, a student who never had her eyes tested until the exercise said, “I have never had my eyes tested before until today. The test showed that I am short sighted and they have given me glasses to correct it now. Thanks to the experts for treating my eyes and giving me glasses.”
The warnings by Lancet Global Health, an international journal, in 2017 that ‘avoidable blindness’ resulting from uncorrected refractive errors and cataract was on the rise, and projection of further increase between 2015 and 2050 globally, no doubt, prompted First Bank to launch initiatives that could assist in stemming incidence of blindness amongst Nigerians.
As part of the second edition of its Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CR&S) Week themed, ‘Touching Lives; You First’, held in June, the bank included free vision screening and eyeglasses for about 2,000 people in its activities. Its strategic international partner, Vision Spring, carried out the exercise on its behalf.
Months after the end of the CSR Week and in commemoration of the 2018 World Sight Day (October 11), First Bank has again intervened to reduce the prevalence and causes of blindness and visual impairment in the country. This time, the targets were the elderly and children in line with the three social impact themes of the earlier intervention; ‘See to Learn, See to be Safe and See to Earn.’
About 1,000 grateful residents of the Old People’s Home, Yaba, and students and staff of Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) Secondary School, Lagos, were the beneficiaries as they enjoyed free eye screening, medicine and glasses provided by the bank in partnership with Vision Spring during the one-week exercise.
The move by the organisation to provide free vision screening for the students was particularly essential and timely as an optometrist and chair of the Ekiti State chapter of the Nigerian Optometry Association (NOA), Dr Ayo Osadare, had recently disclosed that about five million children in Nigeria are suffering from vision impairment that may impede their learning.
Speaking about the initiative, head, Corporate Responsibility, Marketing and Corporate Communications, First Bank, Ismail Omamegbe, disclosed that it was in continuation of the partnership that the bank struck with Vision Spring earlier this year to reduce incidences of blindness and visual impairment among all classes of Nigerians.
He explained, “as a responsible corporate citizen focusing on promoting quality education; good health and welfare for its stakeholders, we needed to reach out to the elderly and pupils after our earlier intervention in June during the second edition of our Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CR&S) Week. They need to know how to care for their eyes and quickly inform their parents if there are issues. This way, we can all reduce sight problems among children”.
Unsurprisingly, some of the student beneficiaries couldn’t hold back their joy after the free vision screening and eyeglasses in their school. 10-year-old Atinuke Oshibote, a JSS 1 student expressed her joy this way: “The optometrists tested my eyes and recommended eyeglasses to enable me to see clearly. I am grateful for it. My mum took me for a test earlier this year, and the doctor said it’s either I use glasses for two years or eye drop. Mum said I would break the glasses, so I opted for eye drop. Now, I have the glasses.”
But it’s not just the students that were appreciative of the intervention. Staff members who also benefitted from the free vision screening explained that it was a big relief; especially as they had been dealing with complaints from parents who had no idea their children had eye issues.
The vice principal (Administration), YABATECH Secondary School, Mr Peter Taiwo Arowolo, explained that the free vision screening, eye drops and glasses would “go a long way to enhance teaching and learning in the school. Those who need a pair of glasses will get one for free after the test. Consequently, there won’t be any cause for parents to be troubling our class teachers to sit their children in the front because they can’t see from the back again. You can sit anywhere in the class, and you‘ll learn. Fittingly, teachers and other categories of staff are also beneficiaries. All of us – students and teachers are happy with the eye screening”.
Speaking with our correspondent during the screening exercise at YABATECH Secondary School, an eye care consultant with I Care Clinics, Dr Ifeanyichukwu Uwadia, praised the initiative for helping to detect sight issues in the pupils early.
He disclosed that, “We have picked some students with allergic conjunctivitis, others with refractive errors and some that are unable to see the whiteboard. Those that need glasses will be provided for while those that require only medication will also get.”
Optical Technical adviser to Vision Spring in Nigeria, Dr Friday Oke, spoke in the same vein. He disclosed that the intervention is an important one that would save beneficiaries and indeed the country, a lot of grief down the line.
“This is an important drive to prevent avoidable blindness that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness have been warning about. We need to capture the causes of blindness early by screening the children, so it doesn’t get worse. If you don’t correct their vision early, it might deteriorate to a stage where you might be unable to correct it in the future. It’s better to correct early enough so they can regain lost vision,” he said.
Oke expressed Vision Spring’s happiness with the strategic partnership, disclosing, “it will snowball as First Bank has already indicated interest to move into communities and neighbourhoods in the future”.
The country representative of Vision Spring in Nigeria, Mrs Tinuke Adeyinka, commended First Bank for partnering the organisation on the exercise, especially the mission to the Old People’s Home where residents had not enjoyed such screenings in a very long time and the thoughtful inclusion of students.
She said, “The screening at the Old People’s Home was a great success. The matron was very happy with the exercise as almost everyone was screened. About 50 per cent of the elderly ones will get glasses while some had cataract. You would be surprised that pupils have cataracts and glaucoma in school these days and it is during exercises like this that you screen them and prevent avoidable blindness in the future. I do commend First Bank for this initiative. Some organisations give books and renovate buildings, but these children are the ones who will emerge from the building.
“I’m so happy that they are investing in their health; their eye health, knowing full well that if these pupils can see well, they will excel. The health talk component is also set to provide more change agents who will share the information with their parents and others around them about the importance of eye health. Some of the testimonials we have had from these kinds of initiatives are that some of the kids want to be eye doctors or they get home and are correcting their parents about certain harmful practices about the eyes.”