Tackling avoidable blindness in the Asia Pacific

Media release

2 May 2013

Foreign Minister Bob Carr today announced that the Australian Government will provide funding to two Australian organisations to help tackle avoidable blindness in developing countries in the Asia Pacific.

Senator Carr said the Australian Government was committed to helping our closest neighbours respond to the issue of avoidable blindness, announcing funding for the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation and Sight for All Limited to host three Australia Awards Fellowship Programs.

"These organisations will receive $254,000 in total for three Fellowships under the latest round of Australia Awards Fellowships to support the professional development and eye health skills of 20 fellows from across the region, including Fiji, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan and Vietnam," Senator Carr said.

"Australia Awards Fellowships provide short term study and professional development opportunities in Australia for senior officials and mid-career professionals from developing countries.

"The Government will also provide $750,000 to the Fred Hollows Foundation over the next two years to expand its long-standing and valuable avoidable blindness work in Laos.

"The national rate of blindness in Laos is around one per cent and the rate in rural areas is estimated to be up to five-times higher.

"This Australian support will include the delivery of primary eye care, training for nurses, eye doctors and ophthalmologists, as well as provision of equipment for testing and surgery."

Senator Carr made the announcements in Sydney at the launch of a series of reports commissioned by the Fred Hollows Foundation and prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which confirm the considerable economic and social benefits of investing in eliminating avoidable blindness in developing countries.

The Australian Government has invested more than $85 million since 2008 to support developing countries in our region address avoidable blindness.

This investment has helped to deliver more than 400,000 vision screenings, 27,000 sight-restoring surgeries and to train more than 9,000 eye health workers.

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