Since the beginning of 2010, the Australian Government’s Avoidable Blindness Initiative (ABI), supported through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), has transformed eye health in Cambodia and changed the lives of thousands of people.
Delivered side by side with the Australian not-for-profit organisation, The Fred Hollows Foundation, in conjunction with program partners, the initiative reaches more than half of the population of Cambodia, providing funds for research, training, infrastructure and sight restoring surgery.
By building on existing services and working closely with the Cambodian Ministry of Health, the initiative is delivering effective, self sufficient, long-term eye care.
In just under two years Australian aid has subsidised over 8,174 cataract surgeries and provided funds for a further 2,783 sight restoring interventions. Over 29,873 Cambodians from some of the poorest provinces in Cambodia have had their eyes examined.
A further 24,753 school students have been screened for refractive error and as a result hundreds have received spectacles.
Eye care services not only benefit the individual recipient but also the families of those affected, especially by avoidable blindness. Carers of the formerly blind now have time to undertake paid work that contributes to the overall family income. Sight restoring surgery is an important step on the path out of poverty.
The greatest resource shortage for eye health in Cambodia is ‘people power.’ That is why the ABI is working closely with The Fred Hollows Foundation to train surgeons, eye health professionals and administration staff. They are working on the front line to identify and treat eye diseases.
The eye health professionals cannot do their job without the right equipment and facilities. Since 2010 the ABI has supported the construction of two major eye health centres. The Siem Reap Regional Eye Hospital now provides services for a regional population of around three million people and Kampong Speu Provincial Eye Unit reaches hundreds of thousands of people in some of the poorest communities in the country. A further four eye units and one laboratory have been renovated, three new refraction services have been established and equipment has been purchased to give eye doctors the tools of their trade.
The results highlighted above represent some of the achievements of the Australian Government’s Avoidable Blindness Initiative. In the spirit of Professor Fred Hollows, the Australian people are bringing sight to thousands and working towards ending avoidable blindness in Cambodia.