Ending avoidable blindness | The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ

Ending avoidable blindness

Four out of five people who are blind don't have to be. Photo: Michael Bradley

Four out of five people who are blind don't have to be. Photo: Michael Bradley

Kiwi eye surgeon and humanitarian Fred Hollows had a vision of ending avoidable blindness. He worked tirelessly to restore sight to the needlessly blind in developing countries and trained hundreds of local eye doctors to do the same.

Making Fred’s vision a reality

An estimated 39 million people around the world today are blind. But four out of five people who are blind don't have to be, their condition is treatable or preventable.

The Fred Hollows Foundation works to restore sight and end avoidable blindness in 30 developing countries across Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

We focus on the comprehensive treatment of cataracts which are responsible for around half of all global blindness. Modern cataract surgery using an intraocular lens (IOL) takes just 20 minutes and can cost as little as $25 in some countries. We also tackle other causes of avoidable blindness including glaucoma, pytergium, trachoma and refractive error.

In the last five years alone, The Fred Hollows Foundation has performed nearly one million sight-restoring operations and treatments, and trained more than 38,000 eye health workers; achievements Fred would be proud of.

Ending avoidable blindness in the Pacific

The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ works to restore sight and end avoidable blindness in the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste where four out of five people who are blind don’t have to be; their condition is preventable or treatable.

We train local eye health workers and support them to deliver high quality eye care services in their own communities. We also build and equip eye clinics, and run a surgical outreach program into remote and underserviced communities.

Our training and support establishes locally controlled and delivered eye care programs that prevent and treat avoidable blindness. Our work also contributes directly to poverty reduction by reversing the decreased productivity and social isolation that many people experience when they lose their sight.

Key achievements for 2014

  • 39 Outreaches across the Pacific, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste
  • 6,307 Sight-restoring surgeries were performed
  • 59,936 Patient consultations, with an eye care worker who checked their eyes
  • 12,279 Pairs of spectacles dispensed
  • 27 Trained local eye care workers graduated; returning to their communities to help more needlessly blind people see

Blindness and poverty

Around 90 per cent of the world’s blind people live in developing countries. Malnutrition, inadequate health and education services, poor water quality and a lack of sanitation lead to a high incidence of eye disease and an entrenched cycle of poverty and blindness. The good news is that alleviating blindness is also as an effective way of alleviating poverty.

Women, children and blindness

Around two-thirds of the world’s blind people are women. This staggering statistic is linked to poverty, domestic violence, limited educational opportunities and a lack of awareness of eye care services. Women are also less likely to get treatment. Their husband or family often decides whether or not they can see an eye doctor and many women are not able to leave their household tasks or children.

As many as 1.4 million of the world’s blind are children under the age of 15. Childhood blindness needs to be treated early. Children over seven years of age who have been blind all their life often won't respond to surgery because their brain's ability to recognise visual stimuli hasn’t been used. Sadly, more than half will die within a few years of going blind, either from the condition that caused the blindness or from inadequate care as poverty-stricken families struggle to look after a disabled child.

Around 40 per cent of childhood blindness can be prevented or treated with simple interventions such as vitamin supplements, immunisation and low-cost eye surgery.

Millennium Development Goals

In September 2000, all member states of the United Nations recognised their "collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at a global level".

The result was a United Nations Millennium Declaration, and world leaders adopted a set of eight Millennium Development Goals to be met by 2015.

The Foundation’s work towards ending avoidable blindness is helping to achieve many of the Millenium Development Goals.

The eight goals are:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development.
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What we can do

Help keep Fred’s dream alive.

4 out of 5 people who are blind in the developing world don't need to be. Routine treatment costing as little as $25 can restore sight and hope.