25th July, 2022
By Omolara Otuyemi
Recently, the Sanwo-Olu’s administration re-launched the blindness prevention program, codenamed Jigi Bola, which was initiated in 2001 by the then Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It was introduced to mitigate the occurrence of blindness among the residents of the State.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of people living with near blindness or distant vision impairment, across the globe, is no less than 2.2 billion. The WHO further states that half of these visual impairment cases, ranging from glaucoma, trachoma and cataract could at least be prevented if quick actions were taken.
In Nigeria, the estimated number of adults from the age of 40 years and above are battling with moderate visual impairment. According to the International Centre for Eye Health, about 400,000 adults are visually impaired due to their inability to tackle the ailment at an early stage. An occurrence that could have been readily tackled if there were awareness and adequate care.
Also, according to WHO, “Over 5% of the world’s population – or 430 million people – requires rehabilitation to address their ‘disabling’ hearing loss (432 million adults and 34 million children). It is estimated that by 2050 over 700 million people – or one in every ten people – will have disabling hearing loss.”
According to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the state government is targeting 250,000 residents as beneficiaries of the relaunched popular “Jigi-Bola” programme.
Sanwo-Olu, represented by his deputy, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, as the programme was re-launched 21 years after it was first initiated, stated that his administration revived the Jigi-Bola programme for two major reasons.
First, to celebrate a legacy grassroots outreach of former governor of the state, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Second, to restate its commitment to improving the wellbeing and welfare of Lagosians.
He said: “This relaunch aims to improve the capacity for efficient eye and ear care delivery and to ensure that Lagosians do not lose their vision and hearing when it could have been prevented”.
The Governor disclosed that his administration has broadened the scope of the Jigi-Bola initiative to include a hearing aid programme in order to cater for the needs of Lagosians with hearing difficulty, through the provision of hearing aids and other medical support.
“We understand that vision and hearing impairments can make life difficult, but could be prevented with early care and intervention. That is why we are re-launching the Jigi-Bola Initiative as a Free Sight and Hearing Aid Programme”. He said.
The initiative, Sanwo-Olu said, is open to all Lagosians, including those at the grassroots across the 20 Local Government and 37 Local Council Development Areas.
The governor maintained that services offered would include detection of eye conditions that may lead to blindness, eye and ear health education, free eye surgery and treatment as well as the distribution of hearing aids and eyeglasses.
He emphasised that his administration is committed to making life much easier and better for Lagosians irrespective of status, age, religion, tribe or other human differences.
The governor added that the main objective of the government is to improve the well-being of residents by stopping at nothing to achieve the objective.
In his words: “I want to assure Lagosians that we remain ever-committed to making life easier and better for them regardless of status, age, religion, tribe and other human differences. Our primary goal as a government is to improve the comfort and well-being of our people and we will stop at nothing to achieve that”.
He added that in Nigeria, it was estimated by the International Centre for Eye Health, that over 2.7 million adults aged between 40 years and above have moderate visual impairment, and additional 400,000 adults are severely, visually impaired.
“Vision and hearing difficulties before they become impaired can be prevented with early detection, care and other medical interventions. Hence, it has become essential to continue in this direction with the BOSKOH Lagos Healthcare Mission International by re-stating our commitment to improve the well-being and welfare of our dear citizens,” he said.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the impact recorded during the introduction and joy of beneficiaries attested to the relevance of Jigi Bola “and justifies our decision to keep it on after the initial relaunch in 2019.”
Through the BOSKHO Health Mission International (partners to the JigiBola initiative, the Sanwo-Olu administration has continued to lead the frontiers in delivering good health care as it took the bull by the horns by adding diagnosis for hearing-impairments and the provision of hearing-aids.
The Governor said: “Considering the status of Lagos as a megacity, and our ever increasing population, the BOSKOH Health Mission Initiative targeted and identified 250,000 residents in need of visual and hearing aids at the third edition of the Jigi-Bola re-launch and BOSKOH Health Mission Initiative last year.
“Prior to Jigi-Bola’s relaunch last year, BOSKOH, in February 2019, organised medical outreach for 20,000 residents, and in August 2019, the group partnered the state to launch the ‘Healthy Bee Project’, with 200,000 Lagosians benefiting from the outreach, and 85 successful cataract surgeries conducted in five days.
For the government, the current effort is another laudable step in the right direction, as it is aimed at improving and strengthening the state’s capacity for efficient eye and ear care delivery at the grassroots, and to ensure Lagosians do not lose their vision and hearing organs when these could have been prevented.
Earlier in her welcome address, the wife of the Governor, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, stated that the re-launch of the important programme marks a significant landmark in the annals of Lagos State and a clear testament of the determination of the present administration to prioritise all aspects of healthcare delivery.
She added that the major reason for including the distribution of hearing aids in the programme is to improve both hearing and speech comprehension, thereby bringing relief to those battling with hearing loss but could not afford a hearing aid.
She described it as another “progressive move towards the sustainability of one of the most successful initiatives of the state government, which has facilitated unprecedented impact, especially at the grassroots.”
She said the programme was a continuation of a legacy that would help reduce visual and hearing impairment to the barest.
The Lagos First Lady urged Lagosians, especially those suffering from visual and hearing impairments, to take advantage of the Jigi-Bola Initiative to improve their health, stressing that a large percentage of visual impairment and hearing loss are preventable and many can be treated effectively if detected early.
In his address, the Honourable Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi commended the initiative, stressing that it is very important and will enhance the health and functionality of the people.
He noted that it is the responsibility of the Ministry to ensure that all Lagosians enjoy good health, adding that one of the most important aspects of good health is the wellness of the sense organs.
Through the relaunch of the Jigi Bola initiative and other such laudable health programmes, the Sanwo-Olu administration has remained true to its promise to provide affordable, qualitative, accessible and sustainable healthcare for Lagosians by prioritizing public health knowing that the wealth of the state depends on the health of its people.
Lagosians are enjoined to take full advantage of these programmes for their wellbeing.
Otuyemi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.