Brien Holden Vision Institute
July 26, 2012
You are here: Home Our work Africa Nigeria


Program work

The Institute's Public Health Division has many diverse programs working to build accessible and affordable eye care in Nigeria as an integrated part of the existing health system. First of these was the Community Eye Health education course we ran for practising optometrists during which 250 optometrists were trained in Nigeria from 2006 to 2010.
Following on from the success of this course we ran the National Low Vision Service Development program which began in 2009 and still ongoing. Prior to this, there were only four hospitals in Nigeria where any kind of low vision service could be accessed.  With the assistance of the Federal Ministry of Health, the Institute embarked on strengthening existing services in hospitals by training and facilitating supply of affordable low vision kits and devices.

Our goal is to increase access to and promote the provision of low vision services in hospitals as an extension of refractive services within a comprehensive eye care delivery structure. So far a total of 52 practitioners (35 optometrists, 11 ophthalmologists and six ophthalmic nurses) have been trained in Nigeria and are currently providing low vision services in 36 tertiary and secondary institutions. This excludes five hospital representatives who also attended the course, four were from Tanzania and one from Zambia in East Africa. The progam enjoys the support of Cross River State Ministry of Health and University of Calabar Teaching Hospital.

Another Institute collaborative program which delivers eye care to the people of Nigeria, is the vision centre in Calabar which services a community of 1,000,000 people. The Calabar Vision Centre program supports the current National Five Year Action Plan on the Prevention of Blindness and the Cross River State eye care program.
Launched in 2011, the Standard Chartered Bank, Seeing is Believing program. It is an ambitious initiative which aims to reduce the prevalence of blindness by 60% in the project area within four years. This aim is being made possible through a collaboration between the Institute, Sightsavers, and the respective Ministries of Health with participation from local community leaders, delivering accessible and affordable eye care provision for underserved communities. Over time the program, sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank, aims to establish a comprehensive and sustainable eye care system as an integral part of the state’s health system.

Just some of the goals for this period for the Standard Chartered Bank, Seeing is Believing program include:

  • Refurbish three health facilities and four vision centres
  • Access for 200,000 school children to vision screening
  • Access for 80,000 people to receive refractive error services
  • Provision for 40,000 spectacles to be dispensed
  • Train 200 primary health workers and 200 teachers to screen school children
  • Train and up-skill existing optometrists and ophthalmic nurses in low vision
  • Work with policy makers, traditional, religious and opinion leaders to increase awareness on eye health issues to improve eye health seeking behaviour in at least 60% of the project communities

Access to affordable eye care in Nigeria is minimal but through the new vision centres, eye exams and glasses will now be available to thousands of people – many for the very first time. With an unemployment rate of 21% in Nigeria the vision centres established through both programs will provide much needed jobs to local people. The optometry services will change the lives of those with vision impairment by improving quality of health including enhancing education and employment prospects.

  • Number requiring vision correction: Uncorrected Refractive error and aphakia account for 9.4% of blindness, 24.1% of severe visual impairment and 57.1% of moderate visual impairment (excluding presbyopia).
  • Number of eye screenings: 26,148
  • Number of glasses dispensed: 4006
  • Number of low vision aids dispensed: 470
  • Number of people trained or upskilled: 548

Before the program


Progress shown from May 2012 through Institute training



Sightsavers, Cross River State Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja, Nigeria, Federal Capital Territory  Health and Human Services Secretariat, Zamfara Ministry of Health, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital and with support from State Primary and Secondary Education School Boards  


Standard Chartered Bank

Country stats*

  • Population: 170,507,539 (July 2013 est.)   Africa's most populous country, is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups
  • Area: 923,768 sq km
  • Geography: Western Africa, bordering the Gulf of Guinea, between Benin and Cameroon
  • Industries: Nigeria is the 13th largest oil producer in the world and 70% of the workforce is in agriculture
  • Communication: Of the 193,000 km of road only 29,000 km is paved, making journeys slow and laborious

*Based on information from


  • Global Head Office
    Level 4 North Wing
    Rupert Myers Building
    Gate 14 Barker Street,
    University of New South Wales
    Sydney NSW 2052
  • +61 2 9385 7516

  • Africa Head Office
    172 Umbilo Road
    Durban 4001
    South Africa
  • +27 31 202 3811

ocv founding


email icon

Subscribe and stay informed about news and developments in vision research and eye care.
Subscribe Now!