With a population close to 200,000 and no local ophthalmologist, eye health is in great need of prioritisation in Samoa. The Foundation is working hard to make sure the three eye nurses running eye health clinics in Samoa are supported, and can advocate at a high level to make sure avoidable blindness is given the attention it needs.
Samoa is a group of ten islands, the largest of which are Upolu and Savai’i which are an hour apart by boat. Samoa has close links with New Zealand and receives a significant amount of support from expatriates and relatives living and working there.
In 2007, The Foundation published results from its survey to assess the levels of eye disease and care in Samoa. It revealed that cataracts were the leading cause of blindness, with low vision being caused by uncorrected refractive error, pterygium, and diabetic retinopathy. It also found that while Samoa had a donated spectacles program, the amount of people receiving spectacles to help them to see was as low as 16.7%. Many patients were given a spectacle prescription but the lack of affordable spectacle supply suggests that many went unfilled.
Samoa has never had a national eye care plan endorsed by the Ministry of Health. A draft plan was developed at the 2011 IAPB conference by Fred Hollows Foundation sponsored participants from Samoa and their colleagues.
The priorities that emerged were:
- Securing two trained ophthalmologists
- More Postgraduate Diploma in Eye Care graduates
- Decentralising services
- Reducing the backlog of patients
- Securing quality eye equipment
A national eye care plan formalised by the Samoan Ministry of Health will hopefully be announced soon.
- Conducted 4 outreach visits to Samoa - two visits each to Savai'i and Apia.
- Performed 407 sight-restoring surgeries during surgical outreach visits.
- Conducted workforce support visits to each of The Foundation's graduates.
About the program
The Foundation has so far trained four Postgraduate Eye Care nurses. Three of them are working at the main hospital in Apia and the fourth is running an eye clinic on the island of Savai’i.
Without an ophthalmologist, surgical outreach visits to Samoa by the Pacific Eye Institute remain fundamental to the provision of eye services. These visits also support the eye nurses - three of which are running eye services themselves - and act as first point of referral for patients from Tokelau.
Our focus in Samoa is bolstering the number of eye health workers in the nation. Due to the absence of a locally based ophthalmologist, recruiting good quality candidates for the Diploma in Ophthalmology is an urgent need. With the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy, there is also a need for a diabetic specialist so recruitment is also underway for a nurse to be trained in diabetes eye care. The ability to provide a diabetes program in the country also depends on the government investing in the necessary equipment.
Together with our partners, The Foundation has:
- Trained six specialist eye health nurses
- Set up an eye clinic on the island of Savai'i
Facts and figures
|Prevalence of blindness||0.7%|
|Main causes of blindness||cataract, diabetic retinopathy|
|Number of eye doctors||0|
|Number of eye doctors needed by 2020||2|
|Number of eye nurses trained||6|
|Number of eye nurses needed by 2020||8|
|Number of diabetes eye nurses trained||0|
|Number of diabetes eye nurses needed by 2020||4|
|Adult literacy rate||98.8%|
|Under-5 mortality rate (per 1,000 births)||20|
|Number of doctors (per 10,000 people)||21.2|
Source: World Health Organization: Samoa, International human development indicators: Samoa, UNDP.
NB: Number of eye nurses includes those trained by The Foundation currently working as eye nurses.