Tonga has a significant diabetes problem, of which 80 percent was undiagnosed in a survey undertaken in 2002. One eye health worker was worried that her country was heading for a “blind population,” due to the poorly managed nature of the disease.
The Kingdom of Tonga consists of 169 low-lying coral and volcanic islands, of which 36 are inhabited. There are three main island groups - Tongatapu, on which the capital Nuku'alofa is situated, Vava'u, and Ha'apai.
A 1989 survey of blindness in Tonga estimated that the national prevalence of blindness was 0.56 per cent, with monocular blindness prevalence three times that. Cataract was responsible for 68.4 per cent of bilateral and 30.3 per cent of monocular blindness. Risk factors for cataract included age and (self-reported) diabetes. Most of the remaining visual impairment was caused by corneal opacity from infection or trauma, and diabetes.
Eye clinics at Vaiola Hospital in Nuku'alofa, and Prince Wellington Ngu Hospital in Vava'u, are staffed by three Foundation-trained eye nurses, one of whom - a health assistant - also trained at the Pacific Eye Institute in retinal laser treatment. This team works with the support and supervision of the country's lead ophthalmologist, Dr Paula Vivili.
- Conducted one surgical outreach visits to Tonga.
- Performed 112 sight-restoring surgeries during surgical outreach.
About our program
The Foundation has trained seven eye health workers who graduated with the Postgraduate Diploma in Eye Care. Workforce support to these graduates is a primary focus of The Foundation in Tonga. This support ensures that the graduates are supported and retained to provide accessible, effective, responsive, and sustainable eye health services in the country.
In the next few years, Tonga would like to send doctors to the Pacific Eye Institute to gain a Diploma in Ophthalmology and Postgraduate Diploma in the Medical Management of Vitreoretinal and Diabetes Eye Care. Tonga would also like two more nurses to undertake the Postgraduate Diploma in Eye Care, and four more eye health workers to complete the Posgraduate Certificate in Diabetes Eye Care.
Facts and figures
|Prevalence of blindness||0.7%|
|Number of eye doctors||0|
|Number of eye doctors needed||2|
|Number of eye nurses||4|
|Number of eye nurses needed||4|
|Number of diabetes eye nurses||4|
|Number of diabetes eye nurses needed by 2020||6|
|Adult literacy rate||99%|
|Under-5 mortality rate (per 1,000 births)||16|
|Number of doctors (per 1,000 people)||5.6|
Source: World Health Organization: Tonga, International Human Development Indicators: Tonga, UNDP.
NB: Number of eye nurses includes those trained by The Foundation currently working as eye nurses. Number of eye doctors includes all doctors with MMed.