From the 6th-11th May, 2010, the Embassy of Israel in Nigeria embarked on a project known as "Israel Opening Eyes". Under the project, the Israeli embassy brought in three internationally acclaimed Israeli Eyes Specialists to perform eye surgeries and treatment of chronic eye problems for about some 50 Nigerian patients. The Israeli Eye specialists were led by Professor Shlomo Melamed and comprised of Dr. Guy Ben-Simon and Dr. Didi Fabian.
The free surgeries and treatments which took place at the National Hospital, Abuja also provided an opportunity for the visiting Israeli eye specialists and their Nigerians counterparts, to share knowledge and experiences in the field of Ophthalmology and eye surgery. According to the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Moshe Ram, the "Opening Eyes" project was conceived as something different from the embassy to commemorate the 62nd independence anniversary of the State of Israel, and the advance practically, the relations between the people of the two countries.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the project, Ambassador Ram stated that this year's event is dedicated to the memory of Nigeria's late President, Umaru Yar'Adua whose death occurred a day before the Opening Eyes Project was due to kick-off in Abuja, prompting the cancellation of the opening ceremony planned for the project.
The Israeli envoy said the project was a fitting honor for Late President Yar'Adua in view of the health challenges faced by the Nigerian leader, as well as his concern for the good health of Nigerians.
According to the Deputy of Mission, Embassy of Israel, Abuja, Mr. George Deek, The Opening Eyes Project, is a follow-up to the Embassy's humanitarian gesture which started in 2009 when the Embassy, sponsored a three year old Nigerian boy, Master Mide Mamullah Aiyebelehin, who was born with a hole in the heart for cardiologic operation in Israel, to mark the 61st Independence Anniversary of the State of Israel.
During the free eye treatments about 50 eyes patients benefitted from the project namely, 10 patients were treated for glaucoma, 13 for cataract, seventeen for pterygium/occiloplastic while 8 were for review and secondary opinion.
Similarly, about forty Nigerian doctors participated in a lecture series, class and discussions organized by the embassy in collaboration with the National Hospital, Abuja, to enable the visiting eye specialists interface with their Nigerian counterparts with a view to building a sustainable exchange of knowledge between Israel and Nigeria in the medical and healthcare delivery sector.
In a brief address at the closing ceremony, the leader of the medical team, Professor Shlomo Melamed, said his team not only performed surgery, but also engaged in education and exchange of knowledge and information with their Nigeria counterparts. He said National Hospital, Abuja, venue of the surgeries inherited state-of-the-art medical equipment worth fifty thousand dollars brought from Israel for the exercise.
In an address at the closing ceremony, the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, represented by the Director of Public Health in the Ministry, Dr. Mike Anibeze revealed that there are over one million blind Nigerians and another three million visually impaired. He said that fifty percent of avoidable blindness is attributed to cataract, followed by Glaucoma (16%), corneal opacity (12%), trachoma (4%) and optic atrophy (3%). He disclosed that refractive error is the major cause of visual impairment.
Professor Chukwu revealed further that the National Blindness and low vision surgery carried out by the Health ministry from which the data above were derived, also showed that the prevalence of blindness in the country is 4.2 percent in adults 40 years and above and 0.78 percent in all ages.
The Minister commended the Israeli Embassy in Nigeria, and the government of Israel for carrying out the Opening Eye Project, adding that the humanitarian gesture will go a long way to strengthen the existing relations between Nigeria and Israel.
The Minister charged all those present and indeed all Nigerians to endeavor to have their sight checked at least once a year by qualified eye care practitioners, so as to detect the presence of disease and commence early treatment where necessary.
Embassy of Israel, Abuja