Children and diabetes sufferers living with blindness in Pakistan can now receive the complex care they need after two new Foundation-supported eye care units opened in the country's north.

The new facilities will serve a population of 4.5 million and allow the treatment people living in the city of Rawalpindi and surrounding areas.

"More than 400 patients come to Rawalpindi Hospital for eye operations every day," The Foundation's CEO Brian Doolan said.

"These new facilities will ensure that every one of those patients receives the highest quality care."

Together with the Australian Government, The Foundation is working to improve paediatric and diabetes eye care services across Pakistan.

Two years ago, a Foundation team and local partners visited the Rawalpindi Hospital and identified a need for equipment and infrastructure to tackle these burgeoning problems.

"The Foundation is continuing Fred's approach of equipping local hospitals with the resources they need to tackle avoidable blindness," Doolan said.

"There are over 120,000 children living with blindness in Pakistan. Specialised medical equipment is vital to treat their young eyes and give them a normal childhood."

"Diabetic retinopathy, which damages the eye's retina, is also becoming more and more widespread. These new facilities will restore sight and independence to many."

With The Foundation's support, patients visiting the hospital now have access to a pediatric sub-specialty unit for treating childhood blindness and a vitro-retinal unit with state-of-the-art equipment to treat diabetic retinopathy. In addition, rather than sending patients to different parts of the hospital for surgery, they can now have their operation in one of the newly created sub-specialty eye operating theatres.

And because Rawalpindi Hospital is a medical teaching institution, more ophthalmology surgeons and eye health workers are now able to receive training, which will further extend eye care services in the region.

Since The Foundation began working in Pakistan in 1998, the blindness rate has fallen from 1.9 per cent to around 1 per cent - dropping by around 1 million people. In 2010 alone, The Foundation trained 11 surgeons in general ophthalmology and sub-specialty fields, along with 32 nurses and clinic support staff.

The upgrades are an initiative of the Pakistan-Australia Sub-specialty Eye Care Project between The Fred Hollows Foundation, the Pakistan Government and the Australian Government's aid program, delivered by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

>Learn more about the Pakistan Program.