A journey to Abuchi Padama Community in Suleja Area Council, of Niger State is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
This is more so for a first time visitor as he or she will do well to prepare to be confronted by such challenges that are sure to task him both physically and mentally, a test to his endurance similar to what lies in wait for a participant in a Gulder Ultimate Search. This is because Abuchi community could easily be mistaken for a jungle, especially given the hilly and indeed rough terrain of the only access road to the area.
In fact, during Vanguard Metro’s recent visit to the place, there were clear indications that civilization was alien to the community, with basic social amenities absent due to decades of neglect by successive governments, both at local and state levels. But the most glaring and disturbing, in VM’s estimation, was the total lack of modern health care treatment for the medically distressed.
That was until recently when Dr. Wisdom Ogochukwu Ebeogu, a participant in the current National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, programme, did the unusual by taking free eye care services to the community. Tagged: “Niger Save Sight Project”, the young corps member said the humanitarian gesture was initiated as part of her contribution to the Community Development Service, CDS, requirement of the NYSC.
The Niger Save Sight Project comprised a free eye screening, cataract surgery, distribution of eye glasses, blood sugar and high blood pressure tests for the community.
Dr. Ebeogu, an optometrist and a Batch A corps member serving at the General Hospital Suleja, said as a professional: “I felt that through this project I can reach out and meet the eye care needs of the people. When I came to Suleja, I decided to take this humanitarian service down to this remote and neglected community because the people can hardly come to town for their eye treatment”.
She said her target was to reach out to only 1,000, but more persons came knocking for the service.
“As part of my CD pogramme, I felt that I will make more impact in the community by providing free eye screening and surgery to the people as well as educating them on healthy living. I went with a team of other eye care providers to assist in checking the eyes of those afflicted, conducting evaluation for them and providing free medication for those diagnosed with ailment, including reading glasses to those who needed them. For those that have cataract, we will carry out a free cataract surgery. We will report such patients to the secondary hospital before they are referred for surgery at the General Hospital Suleja eye Centre,” she said.
Absence of government
Decrying the absence of government in the area, she said she sacrificed her comfort to make the project a reality. “The first time I came for community assessment, the ruggedness of the terrain made accessment to the place very difficult. And even on getting to the community, I had language and culture barriers to contend with. But I was very determined to overcome all these.
Dr. Ebeogu who frowned at the increasing rate of avoidable blindness in the country said: “I believe that blindness is not a curse. The people here suffer from reversible blindness that can be taken care of by either inspection or medication.”
She advised her fellow corps members to see the service year as an opportunity to reach out to people, particularly those that do not have gainful means of livelihood.
The Chairman, Suleja Local Government Area, Yunus Adamu London, represented by the house leader in the Suleja local government, Abdullahi Abubakar Balla, expressed gratitude to Egbogu for her hard work and commitment to serving her father land in this manner.
“We thank God Almighty for this kind of programme because we have never witnessed such in this community in the past. We are very grateful to the NYSC, more especially the corps member who initiated it. We are confident that this singular action will make a huge impact in reducing the number of people going blind in the state.
“About 99.5 per cent of the villagers are farmers, but due to the awareness created and the importance they attached this programme, no one went to farm today. The District Head, women, children, youth are all present. As a government, we promise to encourage the youth corps members by providing them healthy accommodation. As time goes on, we will provide them jobs, irrespective of their state of origin,” said the London.
Giving back to humanity
Speaking on the rationale behind the project, the representative of the head of medical team from Suleja General Hospital and Head of Ophthametrics Department, Suleja Eye, Dr. Kingsman Alozie, said the project was in line with the Federal Government’s Vision 2020 aimed at eradicating all avoidable blindness. He noted that the project will fish out people who have cataract so that they can be referred for surgery.
“It is good to give back to humanity what providence has given you and that is what Dr. Wisdom is doing here today. She has shown some sense of responsibility to the rural people. At this point in time, she has brought the services so that they can benefit. I am impressed with the team which cuts across corps members, doctors, scientists, nurses, volunteers. No man could have done it alone. This is one of the youth corps members who have shown that they can initiate ideas that can lift some communities from the bondage of illness and poverty. Other corps members should emulate her, even if it is not in the medical profession but in other areas,” he advised.
The representative of the NYSC, Mrs. Jane Bello, commended the corps member for her foresight and determination to bringing succor to the less privileged people. “The NYSC is happy with what she has done because she has made us proud by giving sight to the blind. For us, eye is the window through which the whole body sees and with this programme, I am sure many potential blind persons will no longer become blind.
Many sponsors and supporters
The Project Coordinator, Emmanuel Agada, said the project, which though was personal, attracted many sponsors and supporters because of the importance they attached to it. He explained that the project was aimed at helping the underprivileged persons in the society to have a sense of belonging, despite their neglect by government.
One of the beneficiaries of the project, Ibrahim Garba, expressed appreciation to Doctor Egbogu for her kind gesture.
The project was sponsored by the Suleja Emirate Council, local government, General Hospital management, Nigerian Optometric Association, Niger State Free Eye Care Programme, and a volunteer team of eye care professionals