Kano, Nigeria — Gunduma Hospital System Council General Hospital is one of five free camps where people are receiving cataract surgery in Dutse, Jigawa State.
The Jigawa State Ministry of Health is working with the Evangelical Church of Winning All (ECWA) and Standard Chartered Bank to reduce a backlog of cataract cases for some 1,851 people in free eye camps in Dutse, Gumel, Hadejia, Kazaure and Ringim local government areas.
A recent Nigerian national eye survey reports that cataracts are the most common cause of blindness in Dutse. They're blamed for more than 43 percent of all cases in the northern town. Other causes are glaucoma, old age, measles, use of traditional eye medicines, and vitamin A deficiency.
Thirty-year-old Saminu Ibrahim is a petty trader in Jahun, Jigawa State. He has cataracts in both eyes. Saminu said, "I have been suffering from this ailment in the last two years. I tried using different kinds of traditional to western medicine but did not get relief. When I heard of the free eye camp I decided to give it a trial and am glad it paid off."
Saminu said he heard of the effort from a local public awareness campaign urging people with cataracts or other eye impairments to visit the eye camp for free surgery.
"The camp is in collaboration between Standard Chartered Bank and Jigawa State Government to operate adult cataract," said Dr. Sunday Abuh, managing director at ECWA's Eye Hospital in Kano. "Our target which we have already met is 1,851 in the five centres with different surgeons operating at the different centres."
Dr. Abuh said beneficiaries of the free service must have cataracts in one or both eyes. Untreated, cataracts can lead to blindness. To achieve full recovery, the camp gave out free medications - Oflozacin, Be optic -N - and a pair of sunglasses.
Dr. Abuh says about 66 percent of blindness in Nigeria is preventable. But increased public awareness campaigns to communities may not only reduce poor vision, but improve literacy.
"The problem we have with visual impairments caused by cataracts is that we are not able to deal with it as it is occurring, and so we have a lot of backlog," said Dr. Abuh. "The only way to deal with this backlog is through such initiatives by Standard Chartered Bank in collaboration with Jigawa state governments; if not, the cataracts will continue as long as people grow older.
He said ECWA has been doing a lot of work to help restore sight for people in northern Nigeria as part of its goal of practicing corporate social responsibility. The support of Standard Chartered Bank has strengthened his organization's outreach; it helped to increase the number of people who receive the service at different camps in Jigawa State.
Dr. Abuh says such free eye camps are the only way to reduce cataract backlog and avoid blindness from it in Nigeria.
Standard Chartered Bank provides surgical materials like drugs, intra-ocular lenses and surgical equipment. The camps, patients, nurses and opticians are provided by Jigawa state government. The personnel are from ECWA.
Officials say health financing in Nigeria is very low. Nigeria's per-capita expenditure for health is 20,829 Nigeria naira which equals $131 U.S. The global average is $863 U.S. This equals 138,080 Nigerian Naira. The global average is seven times what Nigeria spends on health for its citizens.