Tinubu approves ‘Jigi Bola’, targets five million needy Nigerians

No fewer than five million Nigerians are likely to benefit from an initiative to provide eyeglasses to Nigerians with sight impairments, courtesy of President Bola Tinubu.

The President Friday pledged support for a partnership between the Federal Ministry of Health’s National Eye Health Programme and the Peek Vision Foundation when he received the Founder and CEO of Peek Vision Foundation and Co-Founder of the Vision Catalyst Fund, Prof. Andrew Bastawrous, on a courtesy visit to the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale reports that Tinubu made a pledge on behalf of the Federal Government during the visit, recounted how close to home his first intervention in eye health was and how his late mother encouraged him to take up the challenge of providing vision care for the needy of society.

Highlighting the pressing need for improved eye health services in Nigeria, the President expressed concern about the more than 24 million Nigerians grappling with varying degrees of vision impairments.

“We must act now because sight and vision is critical to economic development and growth”, the President said, recalling his visionary “Jigi Bola” programme, which was initiated during his tenure as the Executive Governor of Lagos State in 2001 and provided free eye screenings and surgeries to Lagosians while setting a new precedent for proactive eye care initiatives in West Africa.

“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. Some parents may not pay attention to this, but I will, because I am touched”, he stated

Bastawrous noted that good vision unlocks human potential, improves earning, learning, and wellness for individuals, communities, and countries.

“When I was 12, I was told by my teachers that I was clumsy and lazy, but the results of an eye exam explained I had very poor vision. And when I put on a pair of glasses, I saw the leaves on a tree for the first time, and my life completely changed two weeks later, I was wearing my first pair of free eyeglasses and I saw stars clearly for the first time.

“My grades improved, and the trajectory of my life completely changed, all because of a very cheap intervention that was 700 years old. Had that not happened, I would not be standing in front of you today. I would not be a professor, and I would not be involved in the work I am doing because sight gives opportunity”, the Professor recounted.

He noted that eye care is still chronically under-resourced in many countries, adding that the estimates in Nigeria show that 0.0002 percent of the health budget is spent on eye health.

He however said, the good news is that the President has an excellent team in the health sector, and some of them have demonstrated tremendous leadership in the sector.

“What we would like to offer is to bring our Peek Vision methodology and platform to Nigeria to help unlock resources from multiple sources. In the countries where we have worked, Peek in Botswana unlocked 10 million dollars for the school programme, and in Kenya, 17 million Euros. Through the Vision Catalyst Fund, we have secured a donation of 200 million pairs of glasses, and we would like a significant proportion of that to come to Nigeria”, Bastawrous stated.

At the end of the event, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammed Ali Pate was joined by the Coordinator of the National Eye Health Programme, Dr. Oteri Okolo and the Director of Public Health, Dr. Chukuma Anyaike to present a National Policy Document on Eye Health to the President.

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