Nigeria has been in the news often because of violent attacks and bomb explosions. In the period surrounding the presidential elections of May 2011 about a thousand people died. The progress of the eye care program of NLR and the schools of the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) in north-eastern Nigeria were affected. In the south, where CBR Effata has an eye care program, the situation was calm.
Over a million people in Nigeria are blind. The prevalence of blindness is highest in the north-east. This is due to the limited medical facilities for eye defects, but also to treatment of cataracts and other eye problems by traditional doctors. In 2011, the national eye care program of the Federal Ministry of Health proved to be ineffective. Much depends on the six non-profit organisations that operate in Nigeria. The major challenge in Nigeria is to improve the quality of eye care, to increase the quantity of treatments applied, and to contribute to a system of sustainable eye care.
In 2011, programmes of three partner organisations were supported, namely CBR Effata, the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) through the local implementing organization, Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), and the Leprosy Foundation in Nigeria (NLR). In total 5,815 consultations and 522 cataract operations were performed. The eye care programme of CBR Effata, built on years of experience, has maintained its good reputation, while NLR started a new multi-annual programme with the government in the states of Gombe, Bauchi and Adamawa. Both are aimed at acceleration of identification, referral and treatment. Over 100 health workers and 30 traditional doctors were trained. NLR has also held talks with local governments to come to agreements about making a financial contribution for eye surgery.
2011 was the second year of the schools project of ICO to carry out eye tests in primary schools and train teachers to detect eye problems in children in Plateau state. Last year, 9,267 children and 635 teachers in 68 schools were screened for eye problems. A total of 9,971 children and adults participated in health education aimed at preventing eye problems.
In autumn, the programme coordinator visited Nigeria. The emphasis was on the operational management of projects, organizational development, and collaboration of partners and innovation in the programmes, including the training of traditional healers in eye care.
Continuing insecurity in Nigeria negatively affects the progress of the programmes because the mobility of partners is limited. At some schools, eye tests and monitoring visits were cancelled or postponed. Because of the local elections at the end of 2011, agreements between NLR and the government have not yet been formalized. These factors are beyond the control of the foundation, but have direct influence on the programmes and the daily life of Nigerians.
Attention will be given to strengthening the monitoring of the eye care programme of NLR. In addition, further discussion with the management of CBR Effata will take place about future plans and local fundraising.