The main cause of blindness is cataract, with only 47.5 per cent of Fijians accessing the sight-restoring surgery they need. The leading cause for low-vision is uncorrected refractive error, which in most cases can be easily fixed with a pair of glasses. Pacific Island nations make up seven of the top ten countries in the world with the highest rate of diabetes, and diabetic eye disease is quickly becoming the third most common cause of low-vision in Fiji.
Most of the country’s eye care workers are based in Suva, and outreach teams travel regularly to rural areas to reach people in need. Smaller eye clinics throughout Fiji are under-resourced, and travel costs, plus the physical difficulty of getting around, are barriers for many people.
In 2002, there was no eye care training available for nurses in the Pacific Islands, and the only eye care training for doctors was in Papua New Guinea. In 2006 we built the Pacific Eye Institute in Suva. It provides eye care training for doctors and nurses from across the Pacific region. It also offers a full range of eye care services at Suva’s public hospital and is the base for our outreach team. Made up of trained Pacific Island doctors and nurses, the team travels around the region providing eye care services to people in need.
In 2015 we launched a full-service Mobile Eye Clinic that travels around Fiji’s two main islands. The service has improved access to eye care in remote areas, with screening teams travelling ahead to small villages and referring patients to the nearby Mobile Eye Clinic for treatment.