Sightsavers @70: A remarkable journey of vision and empathy in Nigeria

In a celebration of seven decades of unwavering dedication, Sightsavers Nigeria has emerged as a beacon of hope, tirelessly safeguarding sight and championing the rights of the disabled.

Since its inception in 1953, this remarkable organization has been a steadfast ally, collaborating with national and state governments and partners to bring about transformative change.

The impact is tangible, with over 60,000 cataract surgeries performed and a staggering 590 million treatments administered to combat neglected tropical diseases ,NTDs, that afflict millions in Nigeria. These diseases, often causing excruciating pain and permanent blindness, are not only debilitating but can also prove fatal.

To commemorate this milestone, a gathering of representatives from Sightsavers, national and state governments, and the global health community convened at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja on November 20. The Special Guest of Honor, Dr. Betta Edu, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, lauded the Federal Government’s pleasure at Sightsavers’ impact over seven decades.

Dr. Edu emphasized the integral role Sightsavers has played in boosting the literacy rate through eye surgeries and interventions, particularly benefiting girls and children with disabilities. The inclusive approach adopted by Sightsavers ensures that persons with disabilities can contribute meaningfully to nation-building. Dr. Edu passionately called for increased support in the humanitarian space, highlighting its potential to save sight in affected communities and internally displaced persons ,IDPs, and prevent more people from slipping below the poverty line.

Distinguished attendees included Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, Director of Public Health at the Federal Ministry of Health, Hon James Lalu, Executive Secretary of the Disability Commission, and Dr. Walter Mulombo, the World Health Organization Country Representative.

Fatoumata Diouf, Sightsavers Regional Director for West Africa, shared her anticipation for Nigeria to consign neglected tropical diseases to the history books. She aspired to witness the elevation of the disability agenda, ensuring equal access for people with disabilities to health, education, employment, and political participation.

Sightsavers’ impact spans beyond eye health services. The organization has been a trailblazer, promoting inclusive education for children with disabilities and advocating for the full integration of people with disabilities into society.

Over the past seven decades, Sightsavers has trained 11,000 teachers and community health workers to conduct vision screenings for children, screening a remarkable 130 million children for visual impairment in north-west Nigeria. In 2023 alone, 1,000 service providers were equipped to support people with disabilities.

Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers, reflected on the organization’s journey, emphasizing the intrinsic role of collaboration and partnership in their success. Looking to the future, she expressed optimism about the trajectory of eye health, inclusion, and the elimination of neglected tropical diseases in Nigeria.

Harper reaffirmed Sightsavers’ commitment to reaching the most marginalized communities and the disabled community in Nigeria, anticipating many more years of collaborative and life-changing work.

As we celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of Sightsavers @70, the story resonates as a testament to the enduring power of empathy and collective action in transforming lives. In a world often marked by challenges, Sightsavers stands tall, a shining example of what can be achieved when compassion and commitment come together. Here’s to seven decades of vision, impact, and the unwavering pursuit of a brighter, more inclusive future.

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