The Malawi Union of the Blind (MUB) has expressed concern over lack of political will as well as government support to people with eye care services in the country.
MUB Mwanza Chapter official, Gideon Chikasamba, said unlike other health sectors such as HIV and AIDS, there was very little government was doing to support people with sight disabilities and the condition was worsening each day.
Chikasamba was speaking Friday in Mwanza during a District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting organised by Eye for Development (EFD) to advocate for the integration of eye health service provision into district implementation planning (DIP).
He observed that eye care service in the country get inadequate funding and was heavily dependent on donor support while other health conditions get a lot of attention.
“It is really worryingly that government is able to pull huge funds in other health sectors but ignores to support the blind… this is because, maybe, the ministers have never been eye victims and that is a reason enough for them not to care about blind people,” lamented Chikasamba.
The boarder district has a total population of about 98,000 out of which one percent of the people are blind with 50 percent of them having Cataract.
The disappointed Chikasamba, who is blind himself, rebuked government for spending millions of Kwachas to purchase expensive ARVs for an individual but failing to spend less on devices such as writing pads, glasses and mobility canes (sticks) for blind people.
Mwanza District Commissioner, Gift Rapozo, confessed that there was very little government was doing to support the provision of quality eye care services.
He said: “Such essential services should not only be left in the hands of well-wishers. It is the responsibility of citizens and government to reduce preventable blindness through effective integration and mainstreaming.”
Presenting the findings of the situation analysis EFD Executive Director, Edward Chileka Banda, observed that eye health has a low profile in the district just like nationally despite 80 percent of cases of blindness being preventable.
Banda said demand for eye care services was very high but very little was being done due to inadequate funding.
“There is shortage of drugs for eye conditions and high demand for medical services. There is also lack of effective integration of eye care services in the DIP,” noted Banda in his presentation adding that primary eye care service provision was too weak to combat preventable blindness.
One of the two ophthalmic clinical officers at Mwanza District Hospital, Madalitso Nyangulu, said the Eye Department at the hospital depends on donor funds without which the section could not have been operational.
”We are being sidelined because of the donor aid that the eye care services gets. But besides the aid, we still face challenges in the department and its time we stopped depending on donors who at any point may decide to stop supporting us,” he said.
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