Blindness in Fiji
The Republic of Fiji is an incredibly diverse, colorful island nation in the South Pacific. The country consists of 330 islands, only 110 of which are inhabited, and is spread out over 7,100 square miles (18,300 km). Most of the population lives on the two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. For Fijians living outside of these major islands, medical and vision care is largely inaccessible. Visiting an eye clinic might mean traveling from one island to another via ferry, which costs about $20 per journey. This might seem small, but the average yearly income for many Fijians is only $17,100.
With about 890,000 people in the entire nation, Fiji’s population is slightly smaller than that of Austin, Texas. However, only seven ophthalmologists serve all 110 inhabited islands. Almost 70,000 residents suffer from blindness, most of which is caused by cataracts. Since most of the population subsists on agriculture and natural resource extraction, blindness is a particularly serious disability.
SEE in Fiji
SEE hosts clinics on three different islands in Fiji: Viti Levu, the largest, and most populous, island (specifically Ba province), Vanua Levu, the second-largest island, and Taveuni, a cigar-shaped island, which is occupied by over 6,500 indigenous Fijians.
We held our first program in Fiji in 2005. Since then, SEE has hosted 5-8 programs each year, providing free, sight-restoring surgery to over 500 blind Fijians in need.