Federal Government has commended Sightsavers Nigeria for its exceptional service to humanity and campaign for the rights of the physically challenged in Nigeria.
The Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Betta Edu gave the commendation on Monday in Abuja as Sightsavers commemorated seven decades of collaborative work to protect sight and campaign for disability rights.
She said that the Federal Government of Nigeria is indeed pleased with the impact of sight savers in Nigeria over these seven decades doing eye surgeries and other interventions to prevent blindness have boosted literacy rates and sight savers have supported girls and children with disabilities.
This inclusive approach according to the Minister will ensure more persons living with disabilities can contribute effectively to nation-building as she called for more support in the humanitarian space which she says will save more sight of affected communities and IDPs and prevent more people from falling below the poverty line.
A statement from the Special Adviser Media and Publicity to the Minister, Rasheed Olanrewaju Zubair said since 1953, in collaboration with national, state governments and partners, Sightsavers in Nigeria has supported and campaigned for the rights of the physically challenged, delivered over 60,000 cataract surgeries and 590 million treatments to eliminate five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The statement said these diseases, which affect millions of people in the country, can cause excruciating pain, permanent blindness, and long-term disability, and can sometimes be fatal.
On her part, Sightsavers’ Regional Director for West Africa, Fatoumata Diouf, said, “for the coming years, I look forward to Nigeria confining neglected tropical diseases to the history books and making quality eye care available to all. I also look forward to seeing the disability agenda rise high to ensure people with disabilities have equal access to health, education, employment, and political participation.”
She stated that Sightsavers has helped to advance eye health services in Nigeria, promote inclusive education for children with disabilities, and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to be able to participate fully in society.
In the past seven decades, the organization has trained 11,000 teachers and community health workers to provide vision screenings for children. It has also screened 130 million children for visual impairment in north-west Nigeria. In 2023 it equipped 1,000 service providers to support people with disabilities.
Sightsavers Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Harper said, “as we look back on the past seven decades of Sightsavers working in Nigeria, what is clear is that collaboration and partnership have been intrinsic to our success. I am optimistic about the future of eye health, inclusion, and the elimination of neglected tropical diseases in the country. We’re committed to reaching the most marginalized communities, the disabled community in Nigeria, and I look forward to many more years of collaboration and life-changing work.”
Others present at the ceremony included the Director of Public Health at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Chukwuma Anyaike, the Executive Secretary of the Disability Commission Hon James Lalu and the World Health Organization Country Representative, Dr Walter Mulombo.