Kiribati | The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ


Kiribati’s population of around 100,000 is currently being served by two eye nurses who staff a small clinic for two days a week. Access to eye health services is further limited for those who live on distant Kiribati islands, where it’s easier to get to Fiji than it is to get to Kiribati’s main hospital.


Kiribati is made up of 33 small islands, in three island groups dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres. These three island groups are so distant from each other that people have to travel via Fiji to get from one to another. The population of around 100,000 is currently being served by two eye nurses who staff a small eye clinic part-time at Tungaru Hospital, South Tarawa.

The prevalence of blindness in Kiribati is unknown at this stage as no national data is available. The major causes of blindness are thought to be cataract, diabetic retinopathy, refractive errors and trachoma.

Despite the geographical isolation, dispersed population, and limited number of eye health workers, there is a draft national eye health plan which emerged from the 2011 International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) Pacific Eye Health Planning workshop held in Suva. It details ambitious targets for the next five years which include new buildings and outreach services as well as increasing the number of eye health workers to nine.

Achievements 2014

  • Foundation-trained Dr Rabebe Tekearoi returns to her native Kiribati to be the sole eye doctor for the country. Her presence will revolutionise eye care for her people.2 surgical outreaches.
  • Performed 298 sight-restoring surgeries.
  • 44 diabetes laser treatment sessions.

About our program

Dr Rabebe from Kiribati during her Diploma in Ophthalmology training. Photo: Jenna ToddThe Fred Hollows Foundation has so far trained five eye nurses, three with a Post Graduate Diploma in Eye Care and two with a Post Graduate Certificate in Eye Care. There are three more eye nurses in training, as well as two diabetes nurses. We are now in the process of training a doctor who is currently enrolled in the Master of Medicine (Ophthalmology) at the Pacific Eye Institute.

Priorities for the next few years include training more eye nurses, diabetes specialists, and a second eye doctor.

A major part of The Foundation’s ongoing involvement with Kiribati is supporting graduates from the Pacific Eye Institute who are back on their own islands – often isolated and with a big task ahead of them when eye health services have been neglected. Regular workforce support visits take place and resources are supplied. The aim for the next few years in Kiribati is to set up a supply of readymade spectacles for people affected by low vision.

Facts and figures

Eye health
Prevalence of blindness 1%
Number of eye doctors 1 in training
Number of eye doctors needed by 2020 2
Number of eye nurses 2
Number of eye nurses needed by 2020 5
Number of diabetes eye nurses 0
Number of diabetes eye nurses needed by 2020 6
General health
Population 101,000
Urban population 44%
Life expectancy 68 
Adult literacy rate 92%
Under-5 mortality rate (per 1,000 births) 60
Number of doctors (per 1,000 people) 3.76

Source: World Health Organization: Kiribati.
NB: Number of eye nurses includes those trained by The Foundation currently working as eye nurses.

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What we can do

Help keep Fred’s dream alive.

4 out of 5 people who are blind in the developing world don't need to be. Routine treatment costing as little as $25 can restore sight and hope.