A situational analysis of eye care services in Swaziland
Keywords:Children, Access, Leadership and governance, Eye health services and Swaziland
Compared to other African countries, Swaziland performs the worst in terms of providing eye health care services. A priority goal of the World Health Organization (WHO) is to alleviate childhood blindness, particularly in low-income countries such as Swaziland, where many people live in poverty, which is a contributor to poor health outcomes. A mixed method approach that entailed a document review, key informant interviews and clinical facility assessment questionnaires was used. Hospitals and mission clinics offering ophthalmic services were identified through the website of the Ministry of Health and verified during key informant interviews. A saturated sampling procedure was applied due to the few facilities that offer eye care services. Six framework components from the WHO for analysing health systems were utilised in an eye health care service context: leadership and governance, eye health services, eye health workforce, eye health financing systems, eye health medical supplies and technologies, and eye health information systems. Poor management, lack of accountability, poor monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, weak coordination and ineffective private-public sector regulations were identified as factors that lead to poor eye care in the country. The optometrists indicated that refractive services are the most rendered ophthalmic services. The exodus of healthcare practitioners has contributed to the downfall of the public health sector in the country. Five government eye care facilities, 3 government hospitals, 1 non-governmental organization (NGO) and a church mission clinic were included in this analysis. The eye services distribution favors the more affluent areas, particularly the more urban Hhohho Region, which is also where most of the eye health professionals are located. No campaigns have been conducted to prevent childhood blinding diseases or create awareness about getting children’s eyes tested for refractive correction. The burden of eye diseases among children in Swaziland remains unknown. More eye health care personnel and equipped facilities are needed throughout the country, and the eye health care program needs to be adopted.