The Fred Hollows Foundation

The Fred Hollows Foundation has restored sight to more than 2.5 million people. Their work includes supporting programs to deliver more than 200 million doses of antibiotics for trachoma, working 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. 

Their annual demonstrated impact includes:

  • Serving over 500,000 patients with eye operations and treatments. 
  • Providing over 4 million people with antibiotics for trachoma. 
  • Training over 50,000 surgeons, nurses, and teachers.

Key Strengths: Scale, Durability

Multidimensional Poverty Index Indicators: Assets

Other Key Outcomes: Income increase, Disease burden 

Recent Expense Budget: US$100,000,000

Year Founded: 1992

Active in
eye operations and treatments performed
people treated with antibiotics for trachoma
people trained including surgeons, nurses and teachers

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The problem: avoidable blindness and visual impairment

At least 2.2 billion people around the world have a vision impairment, of whom at least 1.1 billion have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed, according to the World Health Organization. [1]

Blindness disproportionately impacts the world’s poor: about 90 per cent of those affected live in low-income and middle-income countries. [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. However, we can fix the problem. More than 90 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable and we can address it using existing highly cost-effective interventions. Blindness and vision loss affect people at all stages of life, with young children and older people being particularly affected.

There is significant inequity in eye health with women, people in rural areas, and ethnic minority groups more likely to be blind or have vision impairment.

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 eye health conditions 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 leading cause of global blindness and visual impairment. Cataract surgery is affordable in low and middle income countries and can take as little as 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 works in more than 25 countries throughout Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, South East Asia, Australia and the Pacific. Their priority is to strengthen health systems and work with communities to improve their own eye health. They do this through life-changing surgeries and treatments, training doctors and health workers, generating new ideas, and pushing for change at all levels – from local to global.

In 2019/20, The Fred Hollows Foundation performed 824, 049 eye operations and treatments, and treated nearly 26.3 million people with antibiotics for trachoma.

The Fred Hollows Foundation can restore sight for as little as $25 in some countries.
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 2019/20, The Foundation built, renovated, or equipped 4,942 medical facilities and supplied 43,846 items of medical equipment and consumables to support 4,559 members of the public and health workers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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. It is also recognised an accredited non-profit with The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia. 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. It is regularly listed in the top five of Australia’s 40 most trusted charities by independent The Australian Charity Reputation Index (RepTrak), ranking fifth in 2020.

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