By Faith Chimutsa
In an effort to eliminate preventable blindness by providing all citizens with sustainable eye care delivery services that are promotional, preventive, curative and rehabilitative, the Government of Zimbabwe launched the national eye health strategy at Parirenyatwa group of hospitals in the capital on Thursday.
“To achieve this ,the Government, its development partners and the populace must understand that preventing and controlling blindness are not optional actions, but rather essential to ensuring everyone in the nation has access to goodhealth and wellbeing for the sake of the common good in national development,” said Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, (Rtd) Gen C.G.Chiwenga.
Speaking at the launch, Chiwenga said that as we launch this National Eye Strategy for the period 2021 to 2025, the Government is fuly aware of the financing constraints that bedeviled the predecessor strategy. The constraints result in the eye health care programme being heavily dependent on unsustainable funding from national and international development partrners.
“My Ministry is geared towards data-driven programming. Hence,it is crucial to generate data and information about eye diseases and conditions in the country at all levels of health service provision. This is key to ensure eye health provision is evidence based for decision-making, policymaking , resource mobilisation and resource allocation. In fact,evidence-based information for eye health service delivery is critical for programming. In thisregard, the Strategy advocates for the establishment of a national eye health database, monitoring and evaluationmechanism and eye health research”, he added.
The Ministry of Health and ChildCare is grateful to, World Health Organisation, Christian Blind Mission, Zimbabwe Council for the Blind and Sightsavers for the financial support that facilitated the evaluation of the previous eye health strategy and development of this current eye health strategy.
He applauded that in Zimbabwe, the burden of eye diseases is huge and dire, andthis is confirmed by Rapid Assessments of Avoidable Blindnessconducted in Manicaland in 2016 and Masvingo as well Matabeleland South in 2019.
It is also estimated that Eight Thousand children below Sixteen years of age have childhood blindness due to congenital cataractsand glaucoma, eye injuries,measles and retinoblastoma. Research has reported a strong correlation between the prevalence of childhood blindness andunder five mortality rates. Based on an under-five mortality rate of Eighty to One Hundred out of One Thousand live births,childhood blindness is estimated to be Seven out of Ten Thousand in Zimbabwe.
Speaking at the same occasion, World Health Organisation representative Dr Alex Gasarira said Eye health interventions at primary health care level should be complemented by interventions at higher levels of the health system. Earlier this year, WHO released a publication entitled “Package of Eye Care interventions”. This could be a useful reference document as MOHCC and partners prepare operational plans for the implementation of this strategy.
“To ensure effective implementation of this strategy, data and information on the burden and geographical distribution of eye conditions need to be readily available. This calls for key eye health indicators to be included in the MOHCC priority indicators”, added Dr Alex.
Dr Alex highlighted that most causes of vision impairment can be prevented, or their effects corrected through early detection and timely management at the primary health care level. It is therefore most appropriate that this strategy focuses on strengthening the integration of primary eye care into the primary health care system.
An unknown female eye patient giving her testimony during the launch, “ndinotenda nechirongwa chakanaka chauya kwatiri ,ndanga ndava nemakore akawanda ndisingaone asi nhasi ndava kuona naizvozvo tinotenda hurumende nechirongwa che national eye health strategy chabatsira isu tainge tichinetseka nemaziso”.
“Hurumende yaita zvakanaka kuburikidza nechirongwa chekurapwa kwemaziso chinangwa chiri chekuti tione sezvinoitao vamwe . Tiri kunzwa kufara zvikuru nekuti matisimudzira “,said eye patient.
Meanwhile the current Eye Camp at this hospital marks the beginning of expedited implementation of the just launched Eye Strategy. We look forward to more of these camps so that we reach everyone everywhere, as we march towards Universal Health Coverage.