Women in PNG's Highlands more prone to blindness

11:39 am on 11 March 2020

Women in the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea have higher rates of blindness than in other parts of the country.

A hut in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

A hut in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

This was revealed by the President of PNG's Prevention of Blindness Committee at a launch of the World Health Organisation's global report on vision.

EMTV reports Dr Jambi Garap saying over 11 percent of women in the Highlands are faced with the prospect of blindness.

"It's like if we equated to the rest of the Pacific, it's like the countries of Nauru, Kiribati, Tuvalu, and maybe Samoa, all put together, all blind. That's how many of our people that are blind."

Dr Garap said the problem was exacerbated by a lack of specialist care, with only one eye doctor for every 800,000 people in PNG.

PNG has the highest rate of blindness and vision impairment in the Pacific - one in 18 adults over 50-years-old are blind, with women more likely to be blind than men.

Meanwhile, the committee has identified four major barriers impeding PNG people from getting treatment for blindness and vision impairment:

  • People often fail to seek medical help when symptoms start to show
  • People don't know how they can access treatment.
  • People can't physically access treatment.
  • Potential patients find the cost of treatment prohibitive.