Fiji has an estimated population of 903,000, the largest of all the South Pacific Island countries. It is made up of 332 islands of which 100 are inhabited.
The Global Trachoma Mapping Project indicated that the country has an infection rate of 15% and a trichiasis prevalence of 7%. However the trichiasis rate is under review owing to a culture of removing eyelashes through epilation.
What we’re doing about it
Fiji’s existing health system is able to address the number of trichiasis surgeries required. Instead our focus is on prevention, through a Trachoma Action Plan and supported by a National Trachoma Taskforce. The SAFE strategy will be regionally coordinated with other countries in the Pacific (Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Kiribati), with the principal aims of distributing antibiotics and advocating with the many water and sanitation NGOs to include face washing in their campaigns. .
Progress so far
In Fiji the Trachoma programme falls within the Ministry of Health and Medical Services’ Neglected Tropical Disease Department, led by the National Advisor of Communicable Diseases. Its National Trachoma Taskforce will be the steering committee which oversees all programme activities.
The country is also developing a National Eye Strategic Health Plan, which will include trachoma, and a Trachoma Action Plan has been approved. The Pacific Eye Institute (PEI) provides specialist training for eye care doctors and nurses to undertake trichiasis surgery where required. Planning is underway for a round of antibiotic distribution in June 2016.