Combatting blindness in Fiji

Blindness due to cataracts is the most frequent cause of blindness in developing countries and affects many children. Fiji is not spared from this debilitating health issue.

Access to facilities and qualified doctors is very difficult and expensive and many Fijians live in isolated communities. Many families with low income cannot afford to pay for cataract surgery and this significantly affects the education potential, work capacity and the quality of life.

Each year a team of Australians consisting of highly qualified eye surgeons, an anaesthetist, nurses and support people work at Lautoka hospital. The team carry out eye assessments, performing operations and counselling patients.

Local staff are trained to use medical equipment and to carry out basic eye care. The project aims to be able to train staff to continue with complex surgery upon the completion of the project.

This project began in 2006 and is coordinated through the Methodist Church in Fiji. It is jointly funded by St Clair Uniting Church in Sydney and ACT member UnitingWorld.

  • Over the past six years the project team has delivered 624 successful eye operations! In 2012 alone the team conducted operations on 110 patients.
  • 97% of patients have experienced significant improvement in eyesight following surgery.
  • Diabetic clinics have been established which can also identify cataract patients for referral.
  • There is a yearly visit from a medical team that provides further training for the eye surgeons. The team also helps to perform some of the more challenging operations.