Photo courtesy of

How it Started

The Fred Hollows Foundation first started working in Cambodia in 1998, in close collaboration with the National Program for Eye Health (NPEH). 

The Foundation’s initial role in Cambodia was to provide extra support for a large training program that had already been established by the NPEH and HelpAge International (who are no longer operating in Cambodia).  

The Foundation’s support included funding five Cambodian Basic Eye Doctors (BEDs) to train at Da Nang Eye Hospital. This facilitated a transfer of knowledge from The Foundation’s successful blindness prevention program in Vietnam to the Cambodian doctors. These doctors were also equipped with microscopes and surgical equipment. 

The Foundation also provided sutures and intraocular lenses (IOLs) to the NPEH’s ‘Materials Bank’ in Phnom Penh, to help facilitate an easy and affordable source of surgical consumables. 

In 2000 The Foundation started to work more closely with the NPEH and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two organisations. The MoU outlined a two-fold role for The Foundation in Cambodia:

  • To strengthen rural eye care services through the transfer of skills, technology and equipment
  • To increase access to quality, affordable eye care services for disadvantaged people affected by cataract blindness

In-line with the NPEH, The Foundation began to initiate activities in the provinces of Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom and Prey Veng where there were no blindness prevention or treatment programs at that time

By 2002, as a result of the work of The Foundation and other organisations involved in blindness prevention, there were a total of 18 trained basic eye doctors and 42 eye nurses. These doctors had also set up eye units in 12 provincial hospitals.

However, resources to support the eye units were scarce and the volume of surgery performed was very low. Some doctors were not being paid for 2 to 3 months at a time and there were concerns about losing them to private practice.

Communities were also still largely unaware of the facilities that were available and there was very little community screening activity being undertaken. There also remained a great need for further training of eye health personnel, especially nurses and community level workers.

In response to the continued need for extra blindness prevention activities, The Foundation went about expanding its program activities in Cambodia.

In 2002 funding was secured from AusAID and a new two year program, called the Cambodia-Australia Cataract Blindness Prevention Program, was established. In 2004 AusAID granted a one year extension and further funding for the program. 

In 2004 a new three year MoU was also signed with the Royal Government of Cambodia and a five year MoU signed with the Ministry of Health. In 2007 the MoU with the Royal Government of Cambodia was renewed for another three years and program activities were extended to the province of Kandal.