New Vanuatu National Eye Centre brings with it first permanent eye doctor

The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ supported the opening of the new Vanuatu National Eye Centre in Port Vila in February 2019 by the Vanuatu Minister of Health, the Honourable Norris Jack Kalmet. The clinic not only boasts a $2.5 million upgrade and expansion of the previous centre but the country’s first permanent eye doctor.



The upgraded eye centre, combined with the recent return of a Foundation-trained Dr Johnson Kasso, will go a long way to increasing Vanuatu’s eye surgery capacity from 200 to 800 per year. This will meet the target surgical rate to eliminate avoidable blindness in the country, as estimated by the World Health Organization.


Vanuatu Minister of Health Hon Norris Jack Kalmet said it was a landmark in the history of Vanuatu health services and thanked The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ for funding the centre.


Over 100 people attended the opening event including several New Zealand donors and Foundation trustees Debbie Sorensen and Kath Watson. Debbie Sorensen spoke on behalf of The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ Trust Board and underlined the Board’s commitment to Fred’s vision of a world where no one is needlessly blind.


Andrew Bell, Executive Director of The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, says, “The new eye centre has only been made possible through the support of our incredible donors. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone that so generously donates to our Foundation - you have helped the people of Vanuatu gain access to high-quality eye care services.”


The New Zealand High Commissioner to Vanuatu Jonathan Schwass, was also attended on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade New Zealand Aid Programme, who provided significant funding towards the new eye centre.


“New Zealand government’s support for the centre comes on top of a five-year multi-million-dollar Pacific-wide New Zealand program called Strengthening Pacific Eye Care Services.


“The overall objective is to prevent and reduce avoidable blindness and visual impairment through increased access to high-quality eye care in the Pacific,” he said.


Dr Kasso, the country’s first permanent eye doctor recently graduated from The Foundation’s training programme at the Pacific Eye Institute in Fiji, was born and raised in Vanuatu and happily returned as a qualified ophthalmologist.


With the new eye centre open and Dr Kasso on board, not only will Vanuatu’s eye surgery capacity dramatically increase, but the escalating number of diabetes eye care patients in Vanuatu will be able to receive better treatment.


As well as the official opening of the new clinic, the event saw a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Government of Vanuatu and The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ. The Memorandum of Understanding focuses on the two parties strengthening the national eye care system of Vanuatu as a whole, with a special focus on maintaining the new eye centre in Port Vila, training and supporting eye care professionals across the country, and ensuring the national eye programme is informed by evidence, best practice and research.



To donate to The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, visit here.