Cambodia is found in Southeast Asia, sitting on the south of the Indochina peninsula. Located in the south-central region of the country is the capital Phnom Penh, which acts as Cambodia’s main administrative, cultural and economic hub. The main language is Khmer, which is spoken by about 90% of the population, with languages such as French, Chinese, Vietnamese and Cham also being spoken.
Eye health related issues have remained prevalent, as access to quality and affordable health care is remains a challenge in Cambodia. In 2019, Cambodia’s National Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) reported the main causes of blindness are cataract and uncorrected refractive errors, with majority being treatable or preventable. An increase of focus towards health workers, infrastructure and training programs is needed in Cambodia to reduce avoidable eye health concerns.
We have been assisting development of inclusive and sustainable eye care in Cambodia for over 10 years. Our focus has been to contribute to the elimination of vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive error via creating access to services, advocacy, and the development of human resources and infrastructure.
Good vision is critical to childhood development, as well as literacy and numeracy learning and school participation. Screening children for eye disease and early intervention are both crucial because the damage caused to young eyes can have lifelong impacts. Uncorrected refractive error has been identified as a leading prevalence in Cambodia. Refractive error is vision impairment and the need for spectacles. Research in 2010 identified that over 80% of vision impairment in children across Cambodia was due to uncorrected refractive error. Working closely with the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, our Cambodia program aims to meet this unmet need.
Working from our base at the Phnom Penh Vision Centre, where we provide comprehensive refractive and eye health care, we work with local partner organisations to enable greater access to clinical and outreach services, at both school and community level. Collaboratively we have setup the National Refraction Training Centre where we provide education and training in refraction and primary eye health care to increase the number of trained eye care professionals in Cambodia.
 Gao Z, et al. Refractive error in school children in an urban and rural setting in Cambodia. Ophthalmic Epi 2012;19(1):16-22
The Phnom Penh Vision Centre (PPVC)
We established the Phnom Penh Vision Centre in 2009. Since then it has screened and examined over 65,000 people and delivered over 21,000 spectacles to local beneficiaries. The vision centre acts as a hub for our Cambodian eye care services providing and engaging in – clinical care, outreach work, strengthening referral pathways for people needing eye surgery, provision of vision rehabilitation for people with low vision, eye care education, advocacy within government, and collaboratively working with other NGOs, and partners. Our efforts in Cambodia have:
- Supported the National Program for Eye Health and Provincial Health Department to set up 5 vision centers in public hospitals of Kampong cham, Kampot, Pursat, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey.
- Provided Vision Screening to communities, schools, organization’s partners: 40,177 /F: 22,072 (including children, disabilities, woman)
Our local research projects have provided evidence for advocacy which has led to national policy and funding changes in Cambodia.
School Eye Health Program
In the last five years, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, in collaboration local and international NGO’s and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has successfully implemented eye health care education programs for students at primary schools in 5 provinces. Yet, there was not a comprehensive school health program across the entire country that incorporates eye health.
The MoEYS has recently made preparations to devise a standardized system for school health, beginning with new policies. With support from the East Asia Vision Program (EAVP) the Foundation worked closely with a number of concerned departments in the government and other stakeholders to aid eye health being included in this new policy. This policy is now ready for further curriculum development and implementation.
Eye care workforce development
Cambodia has 77 ophthalmologists for a population of 15 million. There are no locally trained optometrists. We train Refraction Nurses and Spectacle Technicians at the National Refraction Training Centre. We advocate for and support optometry development in Cambodia.