Nigeria: kids battle allergic conjunctivitis, health officials allay fears

Residents of Ruga, a village less than ten minutes away from Nigeria’s capital Abuja have decried what they describe as a strange eye infection claiming the sights of children.

Amina Suleiman is a mother, fighting to save her son from totally going blind. The two-year old boy can hardly open his eyes as a result of this infection. More than 25 children in Ruga are either currently fighting to keep their sight or have lost one eye to the infection which is prevalent among the children. Speaking through an interpreter, Amina said her son was not born with this eye problem.

‘‘There are up to 20 plus children. The last time we calculate them it was around 30. They’re small kids, from 10 and below”, she said.

‘‘It has been long, most of our children here have some little eye problems. Some of them will sleep and wake up with substances coming out of their eyes. It is dangerous for them. I think may be its due to dirty environment”. Said another resident, Salaha Adam .

Residents of Ruga do their domestic chores and drink water from a dirty well nearby. Nkem Mark runs the only make-shift school in the village. He says at least one or two children turn up with a swollen or itching eye every week. He added this has resulted in some of them not being able to come to school again due to the eye problem .

An NGO, Vaccine Network for Disease Control has been working in Ruga village. It is appealing for urgent help to save the sights of these children.

‘‘A child came, Suleiman Buhari with serious eye problems. I spoke to my director she said we should take him to Federal Medical Centre. We went there and the consultant there check the child and said one of the eyes is totally bad but the other one they can be saved if we get an eye specialist so he gave us a referral letter’‘, said Program Officer, at Vaccine Network for Disease Control, Obute James.

The health authorities in Abuja have dispatched a team of eye specialists and epidemiologists to investigate. Children and adults were examined. Health officials said there is no cause for alarm.

Dr. Ramatu Abdul-Aguye is an epidemiologist with the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja.

‘‘From our investigation, it is not an infection. Allergic conjunctivitis is something you pick from the environment which is what most of the children are suffering from. Usually they react to something in the environment, it may be from their food, or the water they drink. So, it is not something to be scared of . Of course we understand their concern but it is not transmittable from one person to another’’, Dr. Abdul-Aguye explained.

Authorities concur that the Ruga village needs infrastructure to address environmental problems. Meanwhile, indegenes have begun queuing up for eye tests to remedy the situation.