Perceptions of Child Caregivers About Factors Influencing Childhood Corneal Blindness in a Rural Community in Southern Nigeria
Objectives: Corneal scarring secondary to measles keratopathy and vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of childhood blindness in Nigeria and can be prevented by simple primary health care measures. Nutrition, health education and measles immunization are crucial components of preventive eye health services in the prevention of corneal blindness. This study explores the perceptions of child caregivers in a rural community in southern Nigeria to the uptake of preventive health services and child weaning practices which may influence corneal blindness.
Methods: Qualitative methods were used to explore infant feeding practices and barriers to immunization services in a typical rural setting in southern Nigeria. The views of mothers, health workers and other important members of the community were sought. Document study was used to assess the implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation that vitamin A prophylaxis be administered to all
measles patients to prevent vitamin A deficiency.
Results: Traditional views had a strong influence on infant feeding practices and the utilization of immunization services. The interplay between nutrition and corneal blindness was unknown to mothers in this study. The strong influence of the views of members of the extended family on child rearing and health-seeking behaviour was also discovered.
Conclusion: This study highlights the need for cultural sensitivity in designing and implementing health programmes and clearly demonstrates the importance of community support and participation to ensure their
effectiveness and sustainability. It was suggested that the target group of health education programmes be expanded to include influential members of the family and the community.
Key words: corneal blindness, exclusive breastfeeding, measles keratopathy, vitamin A deficiency.