The rate of blindness and low-vision in Papua New Guinea is the highest in the Pacific. A national survey carried out in 2017 found that an estimated 5.6 percent of adults aged over 50 years were blind. Furthermore, two out of every three people who had refractive error did not have appropriate spectacles. The survey reflected the large need for cataract surgery and refractive error services. Across the country, the most common cause of blindness and visual impairment is still cataracts.
Due to low levels of education and literacy, and restricted communication networks, there's a widespread lack of understanding about health problems and the benefit of health care and medical treatments. People may not know they have an eye problem, or if they do are unaware it can be treated.
Over the past ten years we've worked with local eye care and health organisations, the National Department of Health, and provincial health authorities to design and implement an approach to tackling avoidable blindness. This has included training the Papua New Guinean health workforce in eye care and supporting them to deliver high quality eye care to their communities.
For it's population Papua New Guinea should have at least 80 eye doctors to meet its eye care needs, yet only 11 are active in eye care. We've invested significant resources in training eye doctors and continue to advocate for more to be trained. In 2007, we set up eye nurse training in partnership with Divine Word University, with 77 graduates to date. Our goal is to train eight nurses each year.
Since 2007, we've managed the Modilon Eye Clinic based at Modilon General Hospital in the Madang Province. The eye clinic provides comprehensive eye care services including diabetic eye care and surgery. We also provide eye care services to rural populations through regular outreaches.
Our goal in Papua New Guinea is to ensure its people have access to high quality eye care, provided by a skilled local eye care workforce, in a supportive, sustainable healthcare environment.
In 2016 alone, clinicians in Papua New Guinea: