The Fred Hollows Foundation

The Fred Hollows Foundation

The Fred Hollows Foundation is a leading international development organisation with a vision for a world where no person is needlessly blind or vision impaired. The Foundation has restored sight to more than 2.5 million people around the world and has supported programs to deliver more than 200 million doses of antibiotics for trachoma. They work with communities to improve their own eye health through life-changing surgeries and treatments, training doctors and health workers and pushing for change at all levels.

Active in
people's vision restored
pairs of glasses in 2018
individuals about eye health in 2018

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The problem: avoidable blindness and visual impairment

At least 2.2 billion people in the world have vision impairment or blindness — and over 1 billion of those cases could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed, according to the World Health Organization. [1]

Blindness disproportionately impacts the world’s poor: about 90% of people with avoidable blindness live in the developing world. [2] A combination of malnutrition, poor water quality, lack of sanitation, and inadequate health care and education contributes to blindness, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and threatening lives.

Blindness takes away much of a person’s ability to function at a high level in school, work, and society, especially in conditions of extreme poverty. It also dramatically impacts entire families, as caring for a blind family member can mean further loss of schooling or work for caregivers.

At least 2.2 billion people in the world have vision impairment or blindness. Half of those cases are either treatable or preventable.
Young blind girl in orange dress with gauze over her eyes

The solution: low-cost cataract surgeries and vision care

In many cases, awareness of simple health habits and access to eye care can prevent or identify vision problems, while inexpensive medication or surgery can restore a person’s sight and livelihood.

Cataract is the main cause of global blindness and visual impairment. Cataract surgery is low-cost in developing countries and often takes only 10 minutes to perform — it’s an extremely cost-effective way to dramatically improve people’s lives.

How the Fred Hollows Foundation works

The Fred Hollows Foundation was founded in 1992 by Professor Fred Hollows, Gabi Hollows, and a group of their friends and colleagues, following conversations around their dining room table. Since then, The Foundation has become a leader in global eye care. Gabi continues to serve as Founding Director today.

The Foundation provides eye care for some of the poorest countries in the world, performing cataract surgeries for as little as US$50. In 2018 alone, The Fred Hollows Foundation performed 929,106 eye operations and treatments, and treated nearly 24.8 million people with antibiotics for trachoma. 

The Fred Hollows Foundation performs cataract surgeries in low-income countries for as little as US$50.
Fred Hollows Foundation cataract patient laughing with gauze unpeeled from her eyes

The Foundation works in partnership with local organizations to train health workers and build and upgrade facilities, often in remote areas. In 1994, they helped establish factories in Nepal and Eritrea to manufacture a low-cost intra-ocular lens (IOL) used in cataract surgery. These IOLs could be produced for US$5 instead of the market cost of US$150. To date, more than 7.5 million IOLs have been produced. 

They are involved in all aspects of eye care, supporting training, facilities, machinery, expertise, research, and advocacy. They put particular emphasis on training and empowering local people as the key to sustainable change.

What makes Fred Hollows Foundation so effective


The World Bank has identified cataract surgery as among the most cost-effective of all public health interventions. A typical cataract procedure costs as little as US$50 per treatment. [3] [4]

Community partnerships

In 2018, the Fred Hollows Foundation trained 57,207 surgeons, community health workers, and teachers, as well as educated more than 2.4 million school children and community members in eye health.

Compounding impact

Studies have proven that after cataract surgery, patients no longer need care from family members, who can then attend school or return to work and generate additional income for themselves and their families.

Designed for scale

In 2018 alone, The Fred Hollows Foundation performed 929,106 eye operations and treatments, screened more than 5.3 million people, treated nearly 24.8 million people with antibiotics for trachoma, and distributed more than 125,000 pairs of glasses. 

Infrastructure support

Since 1994, IOL factories in Eritrea and Nepal have produced more than 7.5 million lenses — and in 2018, The Foundation built, renovated, or equipped 654 medical facilities and supplied more than AU$4.4 million of medical equipment and infrastructure.

The Fred Hollows Foundation’s accountability

The Fred Hollows Foundation is a member of the Australian Council for International Development, which requires high standards of corporate governance, public accountability, and financial management. The Foundation’s annual reports and financial statements are available on their website. [5]

Recognition for the Fred Hollows Foundation

In 2013, The Foundation was named Australian Charity of the Year and the Global Journal placed it 43rd on their list of the Top 50 NGOs in the world. The Foundation has also been listed by GiveWell as a potential top non-profit charity in both 2008 and 2010.

Frequently Asked Questions

The developing world accounts for 90% of global cases of blindness and vision impairment. In these low-income countries, almost everyone with cataract becomes blind, so people 50 and over are very vulnerable. Additionally, children under 15 are at risk due to health issues that can lead to blindness. A high proportion of blind children die within a few years of losing sight, either from the underlying disease or the inability of their impoverished families to care for them. [6]

In the developing world, malnutrition, inadequate healthcare, lack of education, and poor water quality and sanitation are major contributors to eye disease. Those who develop cataracts often do not have awareness about, access to, or the ability to afford simple vision-restoring surgery.

The Fred Hollows Foundation’s main office is located in Sydney, Australia with staff also located in offices in Melbourne and Darwin. The Foundation has branches in London and fundraising offices in Hong Kong, Dubai, and New York City. The Foundation also has local offices in many of the 25 countries in which it works. Its programs are managed by local staff.

Preventable blindness has a reputation for being a highly cost-effective intervention. We recommend The Fred Hollows Foundation because of its work in this area, and because of its established track record of earning independent recognition as an outstanding organization.

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All photos and videos courtesy of the Fred Hollows Foundation

[1] World Health Organization, 2019 news release

[2] Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, The global cost of eliminating avoidable blindness

[3] The World Bank, Surgery Could Save Millions of Lives in Developing Countries

[4] GiveWell, Cataract Surgery intervention report

[5] The Fred Hollows Foundation website 

[6] World Health Organization bulletin, Childhood blindness in the context of VISION 2020–the right to sight