With around 17,500 islands, at least 130 active volcanos, lush forests, incredible biodiversity, buzzing cities and dramatic sights at every turn, Indonesia is an explorer’s delight.
A brief introduction to Indonesia
Indonesia is the fourth-largest nation in the world, with its thousands of islands covering almost the same space as the United States. The country has a booming population of approximately 257 million, with 300 distinct native ethnic groups and 742 different languages and dialects. Indonesia’s myriad of customs, traditions, food, artwork, animals, tropical plants and culture make for a truly fascinating place.
While the country has a young, dynamic workforce and great economic potential, there are also stark fiscal contrasts. There’s great prosperity, especially in cities like Jakarta and Bandung; however, 30 million people live below the poverty line and this is often accompanied by a lack of easily accessible eye health services.
What are the eye health problems?
Despite the country’s significant advances in other health areas, Indonesia has one of the highest rates of avoidable blindness in Southeast Asia, with an estimated 3.6 million Indonesians blind and around 120,000 new cases added annually. Cataract causes 70% of this blindness and a recent study found that of those who were blind, 43% could not afford surgery and 25% were unaware treatment was available. In many cases, others were too frightened to seek medical intervention or had no one to accompany them.
A key contributor to the high rate of avoidable blindness is the shortfall in trained eye health professionals (Indonesia has about half as many ophthalmologists as it needs according to World Health Organisation recommendations). A low level of community awareness regarding eye health is another contributing factor, as is the need at the national and provincial level to implement reforms and provide resources.
The Fred Hollows Foundation is working to assist the Indonesian government to advocate for eye health within the political agenda and improve access to high-quality community-based care.
The Foundation’s programs in Indonesia
Community participation is at the core of The Foundation’s work in Indonesia. The country’s geography means it’s often a challenge to deliver healthcare services, with the most underserved people spread across the vast archipelago. Our aim is to see basic eye care integrated with existing community-level health services and to encourage a greater understanding of eye health issues, services and information available.
The Foundation is working with our partners and the Indonesian government to help strengthen eye health services through the training of clinical staff, community leaders, village health workers and volunteers. Secondary school teachers are being trained to screen and detect eye disease, and our work will help to strengthen the existing school health screening program.
Providing modern equipment to under-resourced government-run eye clinics is another priority. We are also helping to raise awareness among everyday Indonesians about blindness treatment and prevention.
We’re making significant progress
Thanks to some great work with our partners, we achieved a lot in some of our key strategic areas in 2016:
Research, training and technology
- Screened 11,098 people
- Performed 4,671 sight restoring cataract operations
- Trained 1,507 community health workers