By Saikou Suwareh Jabai

The National Eye Health Program (NEHP) under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, on Thursday, 8th October, joined Mr. Sarjo Kanyi, NEHP Programme Managerthe rest of the world in commemorating World Sight Day 2015 at the Eye Clinic in the Serekunda Hospital at Kanifing.

The occasion was marked by the convening of a press conference to focus attention on the importance of the day which is commemorated annually in the second Thursday of the month of October. This year’s theme is ‘Eye Care For All’.

Speaking to journalists from both the print and electronic media, Mr. Sarjo Kanyi, the Programme Manager of NEHP, highlighted the importance of the day, saying it is meant to raise awareness on eye care and facts about the subject matter.

The NEHP Programme Manager said the theme for World Sight Day 2013 was Universal Eye Health which is in keeping with the World Health Organization’s Action Plan 2014-2019 and that this will be used for the next couple of years as a rolling theme. He, however, added that each year, the theme focuses on a call to action and for 2015 it is ‘Eye Care For All’.

Mr. Kanyi said 80% of blind people are needlessly impaired and therefore there is a need to work together for the elimination of avoidable blindness. He said about 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide and that preventable causes are as high as 80% of the total global visual impairment burden. With 90% of the world’s visually impaired living in developing countries, the programme manager urged the Gambia government to invest more in eye health by increasing budget allocations to address the need.

He said eye health should be integrated at every level of the health system.

He concluded by advising the population in the Gambia to be vigilant and caring to matters relating to their eyes and always report any abnormality noticed.

Dr. Abba Hydara, the Consultant Ophthalmologist Surgeon at the Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre (SZRECC), for his part, said the greatest burden in the world is eye impairment and therefore there is a need to take eye care as it is a very serious and important element of health.

He said the eye is the window to the world and that no one should be deprived of their sight. He said the people of The Gambia should try to have an excellent eye health by making efforts to make sure that their eyes are checked, even if it is once every year.

Dr. Hydara said the first national survey on blindness and low vision was done in 1986 and which sampled the entire population and looked at about 13,000 Gambians. Statistically, he said, the major cause of blindness was cataract, followed by trachoma and glaucoma. He said the health ministry and the NEHP have been steadfast in helping to tackle the challenges in dealing with eye care in The Gambia. “Some of the challenges faced are inadequate human resources and the people’s attitude towards their eye health,” revealed the Consultant Ophthalmologist Surgeon.

Also present at the event were eye care health officers from difference health centers around the country, who also called on people to always report facts in their medical reports in order to help the health officials to effectively tackle their predicaments. They further enjoined the media to help in raising the awareness of the public on the importance of eye care.