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Tinubu Greenlights Bold Move: 5 Million Eyeglasses for Nigerians with Vision Challenges

ABUJA – President Bola Tinubu, in a remarkable gesture, has thrown his weight behind an ambitious collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Health’s National Eye Health Programme and the Peek Vision Foundation. This partnership aims to provide a staggering 5 million pairs of eyeglasses to Nigerians grappling with sight impairments.

The President’s endorsement came during a visit by Andrew Bastawrous, Founder and CEO of the Peek Vision Foundation and Co-Founder of the Vision Catalyst Fund, in Abuja on Friday.

In a heartfelt revelation, President Tinubu shared a personal connection to the cause, recounting how his own mother’s struggles with vision health spurred his commitment to this vital initiative. He fondly reminisced, “My first experience was with my mother of blessed memory. She was ill and she could not recognize me. When I intervened, she was treated and given a pair of glasses. The next question she asked me was: I have you, and you are able to do this for me. What about those other women and their children who may not have somebody like you to intervene for them?”

He further pledged his dedication to mass eye care provision, including free eye screenings and surgeries, in honor of his mother’s passion for healing others. During his tenure as the Executive Governor of Lagos State in 2001, President Tinubu initiated the visionary “Jigi Bola” program, which not only provided free eye screenings and surgeries to Lagosians but also set a pioneering precedent for proactive eye care initiatives in West Africa.

Highlighting the urgency of the situation, President Tinubu expressed deep concern for the more than 24 million Nigerians grappling with various levels of vision impairments, underlining the pivotal role of sight and vision in economic development.

Mr. Bastawrous, the Peek Vision Foundation CEO, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the transformative potential of good vision. He shared a personal anecdote, revealing, “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…all because of a very cheap intervention that is 700 years old.”

He lauded President Tinubu’s commitment and the exceptional team in Nigeria’s health sector. Bastawrous also underscored the acute under-resourcing of eye care in many nations, citing that only 0.0002 percent of Nigeria’s health budget is allocated to eye health.

However, he expressed optimism about the partnership’s potential, unveiling plans to bring the Peek Vision methodology and platform to Nigeria. Bastawrous explained that this approach had unlocked substantial resources in other countries, including $10 million in Botswana and €17 million in Kenya. Through the Vision Catalyst Fund, a donation of 200 million pairs of glasses has been secured, with a significant portion earmarked for Nigeria.

The event culminated with the presentation of a National Policy Document on Eye Health to President Tinubu, carried out by the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Mohammed Pate, alongside the Coordinator of the National Eye Health Programme, Oteri Okolo, and the Director of Public Health, Chukuma Anyaike.

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