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The Fred Hollows Foundation
Make a Difference TodayDonate to
The Fred Hollows Foundation

The Fred Hollows Foundation

The Fred Hollows Foundation works to prevent and cure blindness and visual impairment among the extreme poor by training surgeons and other healthcare workers, funding treatments and surgeries, building and upgrading medical facilities, providing equipment, funding research and supporting advocacy. In 1994, they established factories in Eritrea and Nepal to produce low-cost intraocular lenses for cataract surgery.

The Foundation works in 25 of the poorest countries in the world, across Africa and Asia, including Rwanda, Palestine, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Foundation is also passionate about repatriation, dedicating part of their work to addressing health and rights of Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. Through its work, the Fred Hollows Foundation has restored sight to more than 2.5 million people and has performed more than four million eye operations and treatments.

The Problem

Reversible blindness and visual impairment. Blindness afflicts 36 million people worldwide, and another 217 million are visually impaired. Yet four out of five people who are blind needn’t be--the majority of cases of blindness are avoidable. Additionally, blindness disproportionately affects the global poor. Around 90 percent of those affected with preventable blindness live in the developing world. A combination of malnutrition, poor water quality, lack of sanitation, and inadequate healthcare and health education contributes to diseases that impair vision. Visual impairment can further perpetuate the cycle of poverty and can be deadly for sufferers: over half of children die within a few years of going blind, either from the underlying disease or the inability of their impoverished families to care for them.

The Solution

Low-cost cataract surgeries and vision care. Around 80 percent of all visual impairments can be prevented or cured. In many cases, awareness of simple health habits and access to eye care for screenings can guard against vision problems, while inexpensive medication or surgery can restore a person’s sight and livelihood. Cataracts are the main cause of global blindness and a top cause of all visual impairment. Restorative surgery to regain sight is one of the most cost-effective ways to better the lives of many of the world’s neediest people.

How The Fred Hollows Foundation is different from other charities

The Fred Hollows Foundation goes into some of the poorest areas of the world to provide eye care, including performing cataract surgeries for as little as US$50. They helped establish labs in Nepal and Eritrea to manufacture a very low-cost intraocular lens used in cataract surgery for US$5 (instead of the prior market cost of about US$150); well over 4 million have now been produced. They provide assistance all along the spectrum of eye care, supporting training, facilities, machinery, expertise, research and advocacy. The Foundation’s work helps millions of the poorest of the poor keep or regain their sight, thus giving them back control of their lives.

Why The Fred Hollows Foundation is effective


The World Bank has identified cataract surgery as among the most cost-effective of all public health interventions. It was one of Fred’s visions to provide low cost intraocular lenses (IOLs). IOL factories in Eritrea and Nepal enable The Fred Hollows foundation to provide poor communities with affordable cataract surgery. Since the factories opened in 1994, nearly 4 million lenses have been produced. The Fred Hollows foundation has made strides in health economics by succeeding in disproving a common misconception that cataract surgery is inaccessible and unaffordable in underdeveloped countries. The Foundation estimates that its typical cataract procedure costs as little as US$50 per treatment.

The socioeconomic impact from affordable cataract surgery is far-reaching. Studies have proven that after cataract surgery, patients no longer need care from family members and can free them to work full-time and make higher incomes, leading to improved quality life for their families.

Designed for scale

In 2018 alone, The Fred Hollows Foundation performed 929,106  eye operations and treatments; screened over 5.3 million people; treated nearly 24.8 million people with antibiotics for trachoma; distributed over 125,000 pairs of glasses; trained 57,615 people, including surgeons, community health workers, and teachers; educated over 2.4 million school children and community members about eye health; built, renovated or equipped 666 medical facilities; and supplied over AU$4.4 million of medical equipment and infrastructure. 

Community partnerships

The Foundation partners with local organizations in order to benefit from their knowledge and deliver effective service. It helps establish and improve long-term infrastructure, for example by training local health workers and helping to build and upgrade facilities, often in remote areas.

High Impact

The Fred Hollows Foundation’s accountability and sustainability

The Fred Hollows Foundation is a recommended charity of The Life You Can Save. 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.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Which populations are most at risk for vision impairment?

The developing world accounts for 90 percent of the world's cases of blindness and vision impairment—in these low-income countries, almost everyone with cataract becomes blind, so those over 50 are very vulnerable. Additionally, children under fifteen are at risk due to health issues that can lead to blindness; more than half of blind children die within a few years of going blind.

Why does eye disease correlate with poverty?

In the developing world, malnutrition, inadequate healthcare, lack of education, and poor water quality and sanitation lead to a high incidence of eye disease. Often, blindness can further the cycle of poverty for those afflicted with this preventable condition.

Does The Foundation have branches in other countries?

The Fred Hollows Foundation’s main office is located in Sydney, Australia. The Foundation also has a secondary office in Melbourne. It has branches in London, UK and a fundraising office in Hong Kong. The Foundation also has local offices in many of the 25 countries in which it works.

Why does The Life You Can Save recommend The Fred Hollows Foundation?

The Fred Hollows Foundation has been one of our recommended charities since before our current charity selection process was adopted in November 2016. Preventable blindness has a reputation for being a highly cost-effective intervention. We recommend Fred Hollows because of their work in this area, and because they have a long-standing track record of earning independent recognition as an outstanding organization.

Will my donation be tax-deductible?

Donations to The Fred Hollows Foundation are tax-deductible for Australian donors, and New Zealand donors can make tax-deductible donations to The Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand. Donations made through this page will be routed to Fred Hollows Foundation USA, and will be tax-deductible for eligible US donors.

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