27 May 2002

A group working to prevent unnecessary blindness is about to expand operations in Pacific

6:35 am on 27 May 2002

The Fred Hollows Foundation is about to expand its operations in the Pacific, to train people to treat and prevent unnecessary blindness.

The Pacific region is unique in blindness rates because of the high numbers of people with diabetes, which can lead to those affected becoming permanently blind.

Currently the Fred Hollows Foundation works in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

The Foundation's Pacific Programme coordinator, Carmel Williams, says Samoa has only one ophthalmologist and Tonga and the Cook Islands have none, and all these places have high rates of diabetes.

She says the Foundation is meeting in Fiji this week to discuss the best way to increase its work in the Pacific.