Our founder Fred Hollows was an internationally renowned eye surgeon and humanitarian. He worked tirelessly to end avoidable blindness around the world and make sure everyone had access to quality eye care. While it didn’t happen in his life time, we’re working hard to make sure it happens in ours.
Globally, it's estimated that 4 out of 5 people who are blind don't need to be. Eye conditions like cataract and diabetic retinopathy can cause sight loss and blindness even though they're treatable or preventable. An estimated 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired people live in low-income countries. Disadvantaged and vulnerable communities are the worst affected because there's a strong link between eye health, poverty and education.
Since 2002, we've been working to eliminate avoidable blindness in the Pacific. The reason many people live with avoidable blindness is lack of access to quality eye care. In many cases, a short 20 minute operation can restore sight or a dose of antibiotics can prevent blindness. We work in partnership with local Ministries of Health to screen eyes for signs of disease and provide the right treatment.
"I believe the basic attribute of mankind is to look after each other, and that’s what makes humans look after other humans when they are in need."
- Professor Fred Hollows
The impact of restoring sight goes far beyond treating blindness. It's also an effective way to tackle poverty. When more people can see, more people can go to school, work, raise children, or start a business. Ending avoidable blindness improves the economy, equality, skills and development of a country. It also reduces the financial and social burden on families and communities.
Fred didn't believe in flying eye doctors into a country or handing out cash and walking away. He believed the best approach was to work with communities and governments to tackle avoidable blindness together. Like Fred our goal is to work with local people to build and upgrade facilities, develop and introduce new technology, and provide vital equipment. We simply can't end avoidable blindness without building a system of sustainable eye care, and our ultimate goal is to put ourselves out of a job.
We're well known for providing cost-effective treatments for sight loss caused by cataract and diabetic retinopathy. But we also work with Ministries of Health to provide eye care to thousands of patients suffering from other eye conditions. We're in it for the long haul, and won't stop until avoidable blindness is a thing of the past.
The cost of restoring sight differs from country to country due to a number of varying factors. In some countries, we can restore sight for as little as $25.
This $25 covers the cost of the vital components of cataract surgery including the intraocular lens (IOL) and other consumables such as bandages, local anaesthetic and medications. This $25 does not incorporate the costs of the clinics, equipment or medical training of the doctors and nurses.
Medical treatment in developed countries like New Zealand is more expensive because it uses different techniques with more advanced and costly equipment. Therefore it’s impossible to compare with developing countries. In the developing world, a manual and more cost-effective technique is used that doesn’t require the expensive technology but achieves the same result.
Another way of looking at it is that in some of the countries where we work, people may be living on only a few dollars a day. The $25 it costs for an operation as a percentage of their yearly income can be quite similar to the approximately $3,500 it costs in New Zealand, where the average yearly income is around $50,000.
We appreciate your request to visit our programmes in the Pacific, but unfortunately we can’t allow visitors in our clinics. This is to avoid disruption to our eye care services and to provide privacy and respect to the patients accessing eye care.
In New Zealand we’re fortunate to have a public health system that’s adequate for fighting illnesses related to eye health. Our focus is in the Pacific where four out of five people who are blind don’t need to be, and where there are chronic shortages of eye doctors and nurses.
If you require treatment we strongly suggest getting in touch with your local hospital or general health practitioner.
If you live in one of the Pacific Island countries where we work we should be able to help. See our individual country pages for more information.
Unfortunately, if you live outside of these countries we can’t provide individual medical advice. We’re an international development organisation that works with local partners in the Pacific to strengthen local eye health systems. This means we don’t have any medical staff or medical facilities outside the Pacific.
Please get in touch with your general health practitioner and they’ll be able to help you.