Senator Bob Carr began his first overseas trip as Foreign Minister on 25 March by visiting the Fred Hollows Foundation facility at the Siem Reap Regional Eye Hospital in Cambodia. The hospital was established in 2011 through the support of the Australian Government’s Avoidable Blindness Initiative.
Many patients who visit the hospital have severe vision impairment or are blind due to cataracts or refractive error. A simple 15 minute cataract operation or the provision of spectacles can restore their sight—allowing them to live independently and freeing up those caring for them to work or attend school.
Australia’s support to the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium, including the Fred Hollows Foundation, has contributed to more than 30,000 eye consultations and screenings and 7,900 sight-restoring cataract surgeries since 2008. Through the Avoidable Blindness Initiative, Australia has also funded training for more than 700 eye health workers, including training for local doctors to remove cataracts.
Senator Carr said by supporting organisations such as the Fred Hollows Foundation, Australia has helped reduce the percentage of the Cambodian population with blindness from 1.2 per cent in 1998 to 0.38 per cent today.
‘All Australians can be proud of their country’s good international citizenship,’ Senator Carr said.
Since 2007, Australia has provided more than $6 million for blindness prevention in Cambodia through the Avoidable Blindness Initiative, the AusAID NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and the Australian Leadership Award Fellowships Program.
Reference: Helping restore vision in Cambodia