Few foundations in the country, if any, have impacted lives in the land, the way and manner the TY Danjuma Foundation has done in the past decade. For a foundation dedicated to service delivery in the thematic areas of health and education, successive administrations would take a look at the TY Danjuma Foundation with pride, given the enormous resources it has committed in alleviating the plight of the vulnerable in the society in the past ten years.
Although the full story of the foundation is yet to be told as it looks towards celebrating its 10th year anniversary, it has, in the past few years, provided funding, training and other logistics for the Care Vision Support Initiative (CAVSI), a non-governmental organisation based in Jos, Plateau State, which has indeed made a mark for itself in providing free eye surgeries and distribution of medicated glasses to scores of thousands of Nigerians spread across the six geo-political zones of the country.
With this support, the foundation has without wavering, empowered CAVSI in multiple medical outreaches in urban and rural dwellings, making it possible for thousands of impoverished Nigerians to get treated free of charge of such eye ailments as cataract, Bilamellar Tarsal Rotation (BTR), Pterygium excisions to mention but a few.
CAVSI over the years through funding and support from the TY Danjuma Foundation intervened in preventing blindness in Nigeria and more specifically in Taraba and Edo states by operating on cataract cases in adults and children, providing refractive error screening and correction through issuance of free medicated glasses to those in need. Furthermore, CAVSI has also been providing treatment for common eye conditions by giving free potent and quality eye medications as well as capacity building of primary health care workers and ophthalmic nurses at the primary eye care level.
Blindness, as we know, is becoming a growing concern for rural dwellers in some parts of Northern Nigeria especially for those with poor access to clean drinking water. In most cases, eye infections are often treated trado-medically despite repeated warnings by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the dangers of patronising ill-trained medical personnel. Worrisome still however, is that the level of awareness is abysmally low, leaving the fate of those suffering from one eye ailment or the other at the mercy of native healers whose only “medical certification” is that their forebears were traditional healers. Needless to state here that many have gone blind owing solely to lack of medical attention made worse by poverty that over the years, has become second nature to millions of Nigerians.
Yet, in this seemingly despondency, some have different stories to tell; stories that mirror heavenly miracles brought down to earth to take shape and form. It is the story of rare philanthropy, exemplified by the TY Danjuma Foundation in giving hope to the hopeless and vision to those on the verge of losing their sight.
One of these miraculous stories of TY Danjuma Foundation’s consistent funding of primary eye care intervention is that of Mr Danlami Agyo from Wukari, Taraba State, whose family of six, four children and wife, all suffering from bilateral congenital cataract, a visual impairment caused largely by inherited traits and in some instances, undetermined factors.
Through the support and funding from the foundation, CAVSI was able to restore the vision of all five members of the family through specialised cataract surgery conducted at the Jos University Teaching Hospital. Following the surgery, the children’s sights were restored, much to the relief of Mr Agyo. The kids are back in school, looking once again to a glorious future of their dreams. Needless to say, this intervention has given these children a life time opportunity to be educated and contribute to the society while their mother following the restoration of her sight, has picked up her hoe and cutlass, in continuation of her subsistence farming to help put food on the table and with disposable cash (no matter how little) to purchase essential commodities.
An elated Mr Agyo basking in the euphoria the treatment of his family fetched him had this to say: “Thank you TY Danjuma Foundation, thank you CAVSI. I don’t know what to say because when we thought it was all over, you gave us a reason to believe there is life. Without you, we would have remained the way we were but God intervened and used you to change our story. My family is indebted to you and we can’t pay you back. I pray to God on behalf of my family to continue to use you to touch the lives of our people as you have done for us.”
There are also many other beneficiaries who had bilateral cataract extraction who before the intervention of TY Danjuma Foundation-backed CAVSI response had no idea of how and where they would get treated of their eye ailments. Those who knew a thing or two about getting medical solution in most instances were too poor to afford same and therefore stayed in their homes, in painful wait for the inevitable. The impact of restored vision cannot be quantified, given the liberty of movement those who only yesterday relied on help, now enjoy. It is akin to a woman who after years of miscarriages, suddenly get delivered of a child of her own. How great is her happiness!
CAVSI and indeed many families and persons too numerous to mention who had benefited from the primary eye care intervention express their gratitude to the TY Danjuma Foundation for bringing hope and succour their way at a time they feared for the worst.
Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a global framework, “VISION 2020: The Right to Sight” in 1999 in conjunction with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) to eliminate the main causes of avoidable blindness in 2020; findings reveal that cost of carrying out eye surgery is relatively high, and almost impossible to afford for poor families in developing nations of the world (Nigeria inclusive).
Research by Frick and Foster (2003), published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology estimated the cost of global blindness and low vision at $42 billion. Without a reduction in the prevalence of blindness and low vision, the research projected that the total annual costs would rise to $110 billion by 2020. However, if VISION 2020 goals are attained, this will be reduced to only N57 billion in 2020.
The research also pointed out that though costs in absolute terms are highest in established market economies, the costs relative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are considerably higher for low-income countries like Nigeria. For example, the estimated annual GDP loss for the year 2020 without VISION 2020 interventions is 0.5 per cent for both Sub-Saharan Africa and India.
Although the federal government’s National Health Strategic Plan admitted in 2009 that healthcare generally has been a neglected part of development in Nigeria, government still allocates a paltry percentage to healthcare as against the strategic plan’s recommended 15 per cent. In the past few years, government funding of eye care stood at around $5, 500 per annum in Nigeria. The saving grace has been the intervention of such organizations like the TY Danjuma Foundation, which for years, has committed huge financial resources in handling prevention, care and treatment of eye diseases, especially in rural communities.
In the past few years, cases of trachoma have decreased from 22 million to a little over 10 million cases. Trachoma is an eye condition which leads to blindness and is caused largely by drinking dirty water, lack of sanitation and hygiene and is one of the non-communicable diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Findings show that some 1.6 million Nigerians are suffering from severe eye impairment or outright blindness. The leading cause of blindness in Nigeria is cataract. According to research carried out in the course of our survey, the average cost of an eye surgery in Nigeria is Eighty Thousand Naira (N80, 000). Thus, for every 250 contract surgeries carried out by CAVSI, the Foundation coughed out a kingly sum of Twenty Million Naira (N20, 000, 000).
So far, about One Million, Seven Hundred and Thirty-One Thousand and Fifty Eight (1,731,058) persons have been treated of Onchocerciasis (river blindness) in 12 identified endemic Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Taraba state; while another One Million, Seven Hundred and Thirty Six Thousand, Six Hundred and Seventy Eight (1,736,678) persons benefited from the treatment of Lymphatic Filariasis in the 13 LGAs of the state.
Given the partnership of organizations like the TY Danjuma Foundation with the federal government, over 1.3 million people have received trachoma vaccines. Endemic local government areas have been reached and supported with mass enlightenment. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) strategies have been promoted and even though the programme is reaching full cycle in 2020, eradicating trachoma is a possibility, if sustained effort is enhanced by all stakeholders and partners.
To tackle the scourge of blindness, there’s a need to build and fund more health institutions to complement existing ones. The National Eye Centre in Kaduna is s dedicated eye care centre owned by government. There are also privately-owned institutions that provide solely eye health, and at the state level, some states have dedicated hospitals.
There is also enough manpower with about 450 ophthalmologists nationwide as against the WHO recommendation of one ophthalmologist to a million people. However, the challenge is that most of these ophthalmologists (75 per cent) reside in the cities with more than 50 per cent of this in the South-West geo-political zone, whereas 70 per cent of the patients reside in the rural areas.
TY Danjuma Foundation’s partnership with CAVSI must therefore been seen in the light of access it has facilitated to quality eye care service delivery in addition to funding running into millions of naira, it has sustained over the years.
Like its founder, the great Lt-Gen Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) stated a few years ago at an event marking the end of the foundation’s first three-year Strategic Plan in 2014, let us remind ourselves that indeed “The philanthropic space in Nigeria is empty but the needs and cries for help from our communities are huge. We cannot keep looking up to foreign donors and philanthropists to fill this gap. It is time for wealthy Nigerians to think less of buying more Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) in order to commit more resources to the betterment of the vulnerable lots in the society.”
And that mantra of taking the huge step to lift the poor and vulnerable would continue to guide the operation of the TY Danjuma Foundation as it looks ahead to celebrate its 10th year of partnering with like-minded organisation to eke smiles on the faces of as many people as it can. After, didn’t the sage say we all need one another to make the world a better place?
– Forje writes from Abuja
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