Why global eye health is a women’s issue


Fred Hollows Foundation
Bangladesh: Following surgery Ayna Matai, 60, was able to see the faces of her grandchildren clearly for the first time in more than a year. Picture: Hugh Rutherford



An estimated 32.4 million people around the world are blind, the majority in developing countries. Two-thirds of those are women, and four out of five of them don’t have to be blind.

Australia’s Fred Hollows Foundation – one of the world’s leading charities working to end avoidable blindness – is at work in more than 20 developing countries including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nepal and Timor-Leste.

Here are four important reasons why women are hit hardest by vision loss, and why they have so much to gain from the Foundation’s work.


China: The Fred Hollows Foundation supports eye services in some of the most vulnerable communities around the world.
Picture: Hugh Rutherford

1. Women and those affected by poverty are the most likely to face avoidable blindness and the least likely to be able to afford treatment. Girls often have to stay at home to care for visually impaired relatives, rather than going to school. This is why spending on eye health is a direct investment in the most vulnerable communities, including women.

2. Avoidable blindness is directly linked to poverty, a lack of education and limited access to housing, water and sanitation. In fact, 90 percent of people with avoidable blindness live in developing countries. This means that improved eye health delivers immediate economic benefits for disadvantaged families and communities – and the poorest families have the most to gain. In India, it was shown that 58% of women returned to the workforce after cataract surgery.

3. Investing in eye health is one of the best ways to spend development dollars. It is one of the most cost-effective health interventions you can make. For example, cataract surgery can be just as cost-effective as immunisation programs. For every $1 invested in preventing someone from going blind, at least four times the financial benefit goes to the economy.

4. Four out of five people who are blind don’t need to be. They are blind because of poor health and a lack of development. If you targeted just two causes – cataract and uncorrected refractive error – you would already be tackling 75 percent of visual impairment globally. Trachoma has already been eliminated in some countries and river blindness may be next.

Kenya: This woman broke out in spontaneous song to celebrate the miracle of her sight restoration.
Picture: Hugh Rutherford

Sight can be restored for as little as $25 and you can donate to The Fred Hollows Foundation here.

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