Visual impairment in children is common in low and middle-income settings. While visual impairment (VI) can impact on the development of children, many reach full potential with appropriate early intervention programmes. Although there is increased emphasis on early child development globally, it is not yet clear how to provide specific programmes for children with VI in low and middle-income settings.
This study aims to identify facilitators and barriers to the provision of a developmental stimulation programme for children with VI in rural and urban Malawi. We undertook six focus groups, 10 home observations and 20 in-depth interviews with carers of children with VI under six years in urban and rural southern Malawi. We utilised topic guides relating to care, play, communication and feeding. Qualitative data were subject to thematic analysis that included placing themes within Bronfenbrenner’s ecological framework. We established authenticity of themes through feedback from participants.
We identified themes within Bronfenbrenner’s framework at five levels: (1) blindness acting as a barrier to stimulation and communication, health and complex needs all affecting the individual child; (2) understanding of VI, ability to be responsive at the microsystem level of the carer; (3) support from other carers at microsystem level within a mesosystem; (4) support from other professionals (knowledge of, identification and management of children with VI, responsibilities and gender roles, environmental safety and prejudice, stigma and child protection all at the level of the exosystem.