Prior to 2001 Vanuatu provided very few local eye care services. The major causes of vision impairment in Vanuatu are cataract, diabetic retinopathy, uncorrected refractive error and trauma/corneal blindness. In 2001 The Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand (FHFNZ) established an eye care programme in Vanuatu which operated until 2005. This programme resulted in the establishment of two surgical centres, the provision of eye care equipment for four provincial hospitals (Malampa, Tafea. Penama and Torba) and over 25,000 patient consultations.
FHFNZ handed over the program to the Vanuatu government in 2005. The Vanuatu Government funded three surgical outreaches in 2006, but none subsequently. FHFNZ continues to provide technical assistance and support for eye care. FHFNZ has been conducting annual surgical outreaches to Vanuatu since 2006 and will continue to provide support Vanuatu’s first ophthalmologist who will complete his training and take over the provision of these services in 2019.
The National Eye Clinic, has undergone a renovation and extension in 2018. As of 2019, the country’s first fully qualified ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will return to Vanuatu to work at the Vila Central Hospital Eye Clinic. The clinic is also being equipped with a, new electronic patient information system. The eye team currently record patient records on paper.
The VSA volunteer will help support the team with teething issues and challenges of transitioning to a new way of working in the new clinic, and empower the eye clinic staff to manage the clinic effectively and efficiently.