The New Zealand Government is contributing $3.8 million to the Fred Hollows Foundation to build a new eye clinic in the Solomon Islands.
The state-of-the-art centre will double the number of patients that doctors can treat there.
Luke Teaman was blind for 20 years because of cataracts. After a 20 minute surgery, his sight was restored.
Four out of five people in the Pacific could also have their sight restored with a simple operation.
“Avoidable blindness means that it is a cause or condition that could be prevented or treated,” says regional program manager Marleen Nelisse.
Doctors and nurses trained by the Fred Hollows Foundation are waiting on the new eye centre so they can use their skills.
“It’s going to be a regional eye care centre – not just for the Solomon Islands, but also for the regional Pacific.”
At the moment three ophthalmologists operate out of one small clinic, doing surgeries once or twice a week.
“Now that a new regional eye care centre will be established they will be able to provide solely eye care in that centre, and they will be able to do many surgeries,” says Ms Nelisse.
They will do nearly 2000 surgeries a year, compared to the 480 currently performed in poor conditions. It’ll come at a cost of almost $4 million.
“It is a significant amount, but when you consider 80,000 people are classified as blind, it’s not that big an investment,” says Foreign Minister Murray McCully.
A construction team led by Greg Charteris will head to Honiara next month to start the work.
“This job is smaller in quantum of money and materials, but it is highly technical building a facility of this high technology, compared to building ordinary houses,” he says.
Ninety-four percent of the building’s power will derive from solar energy, a system designed by the same team that installed solar panels on Auckland Museum last week.
Honiara has about 10 power cuts every day, so the solar energy will keep the centre going.
“The drive for this building was to have the building fully self-sustainable,” says Mr Charteris.
And with 80,000 potential patients on the books, there will be no time for power cuts