The next generation of eye doctors is being trained at a new institute in Fiji to help reduce avoidable eye disease across the Pacific.

The Pacific Eye Institute in Suva, run by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, has been set up to help overcome the drastic shortage of specialist eye doctors and nurses in the region.

"The Pacific needs another 80-odd ophthalmologists and currently they have about 19 working," says Dr Neil Murray, chair of the College's International Development Committee, which oversees the Suva project.

"So we have a big task ahead of us."

The unique institute hopes to fulfil this need by 2026.

Graduates will have a qualification that is recognised by twelve different Pacific nations.

"There is a huge pent-up demand and essentially there are avoidable eye conditions which are just not being treated," Dr Murray told Pacific Beat.

He says an estimated 80,000 people in the Pacific are blind.

"Eighty percent of those are blind from avoidable eye disease - the bulk of which is cataracts, which can be so easily fixed."

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