The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ in PNG
Today I thought that I would emphasise another important NGO operating in Papua New Guinea, although in a totally different domain, and that is the Fred Hollows Foundation NZ.
An estimated 58,000 people over 50 in PNG are blind, with an additional 10,000 cases each year. Cataracts account for 70% of blindness, followed by refractive error, corneal diseases and trauma – all commonly treatable conditions. A further 550,000 are estimated to have low vision, correctable with spectacles. Although the leading causes of blindness and low vision are usually treatable, most people do not have access to treatment either due to geographical isolation, lack of funds or lack of knowledge about treatment
Many of you may not know that the Fred Hollows Foundation NZ already coordinates a large, multi-year eye health program which operates in three areas: Port Moresby, Madang, and in West New Britain. Its activities, which have been running since 2002, are carried out in partnership with government and local organisations and are financed through public funds from the New Zealand Government and charitable donations from the New Zealand public, as well as a variety of trusts and foundations.
The Fred Hollows Foundation – PNG Eye Care Program has been focusing on training local eye care workers and equipping them to use their skills. The Foundation has formal partnerships with the National Department of Health, the University of PNG, Port Moresby General Hospital, Modilon General Hospital and Divine Word University, as well as good collaborative relationships with other disability and health organisations.
In Port Moresby, The Foundation has re-established an eye clinic and has supported improvements to the training program for eye doctors. The spectacles service set up by The Foundation and run by its partner organisation FHF-PNG is supplying ready-made spectacles to providers all over Papua New Guinea.
In Madang province, the eye clinic at Modilon General Hospital has been refurbished and equipped and a comprehensive nurse training programme has commenced in partnership with Divine Word University. In 2007, eight eye nurses enrolled on the course and this year ten nurses will complete the one year course.
In West New Britain, The Foundation is delivering a three-year project funded by the New Zealand government. The project will train eye nurses and community health workers, build an eye clinic, equip five smaller existing clinics and establish a spectacle program so that spectacles can be prescribed and sold on a cost-recovery basis. A school screening program and community eye care programs are also being developed.
The Foundation also supports outreach programs to provide access to surgical and essential eye care services for remote communities. It partners with local government and other non-governmental organisations to coordinate outreach activities and ensure that eyesight interventions are tied in with other health programs.
The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ identifies the main barriers to restoring sight in PNG as the following: the very low numbers of eye care workers, the large distances people must travel to access care (if it is available at all), the costs associated with eye care and the lack of awareness that blindness is treatable. The Foundation also notes that PNG women also have additional barriers due to cultural restrictions.
It has been estimated that more than one million people in the world can see today because of initiatives instigated by Hollows, the most notable example being The Fred Hollows Foundation.
PHOTO CREDITS: Fred Hollows Foundation NZ Photos: Ben Bohane; National Library of Australia: Fred Hollows file photo.