Dotted with temples, rice paddies and the meandering Mekong River, Cambodia is brimming with picturesque sights. However, its real beauty is found in its people: resilient, proud and defiant.
A brief introduction to Cambodia
In the years following 1975 – when the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia – an estimated three million people (25 per cent of the population) died from starvation, disease and execution. The national infrastructure of Cambodia was dismantled, currency was abolished and the country was renamed Democratic Kampuchea. Peace was not completely restored until 1993, and by this time, the country's economy was shattered and its people scarred.
Despite its tragic past, Cambodia has risen up to have one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. Life expectancy has increased significantly, tourism is strong, and the country is relatively stable. While there is work to be done around issues of eye health, there’s a lot to be positive about.
What are the eye health problems?
More than 90% of blindness in Cambodia is avoidable and is mostly due to cataract. Many people either can’t afford the operation or don’t know it’s available to them.
Tens of thousands of Cambodians can’t work to support themselves or their families because they’re blind. Women are more than twice as likely as men to suffer cataract blindness. This is devastating because cataract can most often be treated with a relatively straightforward 20-minute operation.
There are an estimated 43,000 cataract operations needed each year to address the current numbers of blind people and to keep up with new cases. However, we can make headway with this by strong in-country programs.
The Foundation’s programs in Cambodia
The Foundation has worked in Cambodia since 1998, and in this time, the prevalence of avoidable blindness has declined by 68 per cent. Our programs have made a significant impact at national, provincial and community levels.
We’re working with the Cambodian Government, the Australian Government and other key partners to strengthen and expand all levels of the public eye care system sustainably and cost effectively. This way, all Cambodian people will be able to access quality eye health services. We’re also carrying out ground-breaking work in the education sector to embed basic eye health in the school curriculum and undertaking more research to identify the barriers women face in accessing eye care.
In our overall program, we’re working towards:
- Improving capacity, skills and the number of eye health professionals in the public sector
- Putting in place a health information management system to improve the collection and use of quality data
- Advocating to the government for an increased and sustainable investment in eye health
We’re making significant progress
Thanks to some great work with our partners, we achieved a lot in 2014:
- Screened 107,634 people
- Performed over 13,000 eye operations and treatments including 8,775 cataract surgeries
- Distributed 5,950 pairs of glasses
- Performed 48 procedures to treat diabetic retinopathy and 90 lid surgeries to treat trachoma trichiasis
- Approximately 350,000 school children received eye health education as part of the school curriculum
- Helped 1,342 people continue their education and mentoring along with 205 others who attended courses
Research, training and technology
Advocacy and partnerships
- Completed the construction of two new Eye Units at Sihanouk and Chey Chumneas Province Referral Hospital
- Supported the training of 11 surgeons, 82 clinic support staff and 5,469 community health workers
- Equipment for the National Refraction Training Centre was also set up at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh. This Centre, supported by The Foundation, will train many to screen for refractive error and dispense glasses
- Donated $276,740 worth of equipment
- Began to address gender equality in eye health with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between The Foundation and The Ministry of Women’s Affairs
- Began a cooperative agreement between the University of Health Science and The Foundation to work together on capacity development in ophthalmic nurse training.