Indonesia has one of the highest rates of avoidable blindness in Southeast Asia, despite the country’s significant advances in other health areas. A lack of quality eye health services means Indonesians who are poor simply endure vision impairment and the economic and social challenges that blindness brings. The Fred Hollows Foundation is working to push eye health up the political agenda and improve access to high-quality community-based care.


An estimated 3.6 million Indonesians are blind, with about 120,000 people added to that number annually. Cataract causes 70 per cent of cases, and a recent study found that of those who were blind, 43 per cent could not afford surgery and 25 per cent were unaware treatment was available. Others were too frightened to seek medical intervention or had no one to accompany them. The surgical backlog will continue to grow if nothing is done. Dr Sanduk Ruit and his Nepalese mobile surgical team perform sight restoring cataract surgery in Medan, Indonesia, during an eye camp. Photo: Michael Amendolia

The rate of avoidable blindness in Indonesia is in contrast to the development gains the republic has made in recent decades. Indonesia is the fourth-largest nation in the world, with a population of approximately 240 million, and the largest economy in South East Asia. But Indonesia is also a nation of stark economic contrasts: while there is great prosperity, especially in cities such as Jakarta and Bandung, the World Bank reports that the income of about half of all households places them on the national poverty line, set at $18 a month.

A key contributor to the high rate of avoidable blindness is a lack of political will at the national and provincial level to implement reforms and provide resources. In addition, there is a shortfall in trained eye health professionals (Indonesia has only about half as many ophthalmologists as it needs, under World Health Organization recommendations). There is also a low level of community awareness about eye health.

Achievements 2014

Working with our partners in 2014 we:

  • Screened 1,876 people and performed 588 sight restoring cataract operations
  • Trained four surgeons, 38 clinic support staff and 544 community health workers
  • Supported 907 people to attend other courses
  • We supplied $157,730 worth of essential eye health equipment

About the program

Community participation is at the core of The Foundation’s work in Indonesia. The country’s geography presents a challenge in the delivery of healthcare services, with the poorest and most needy people spread across a vast archipelago. Our aim is to see basic eye care integrated with existing community-level health services. Local community leaders will be encouraged to adopt as their vision “healthy eye village” and develop a long-term plan to achieve this vision. The idea of a “healthy eye village” connects to the ambition of Professor Fred Hollows for a world in which no one suffers from avoidable blindness.Health workers conduct eye exams in Medan, Indonesia, during an eye camp. Photo: Michael Amendolia

The Foundation is working with the Indonesian government to help strengthen eye health services through the training of clinical staff, community leaders, village health workers and volunteers. Even secondary school teachers are being trained to screen and detect eye disease: it is estimated that one in 10 school-aged children are affected by refractive error (the need for glasses). Providing modern equipment to under-resourced government-run eye clinics is another priority. We are also supporting awareness raising among everyday Indonesians about blindness treatment and prevention.

In addition to The Foundation’s core work in Indonesia, we partner with organisations that share our commitment to eliminating avoidable blindness in Indonesia. These include the Nepal-based Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology and the Singapore-based A New Vision.

Facts and figures

General health
Population 232.5 million
Urban population 44.3%
Life expectancy 71.5 years
Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 births) 31
Literacy rate 92%
Population living on $1.25 a day 29.4%
Population which is undernourished 16%
Number of doctors (per 10,000 people) 1

Source:  UNDP Human Development Report 2010

What we can do

Help keep Fred’s dream alive.

4 out of 5 people who are blind in the developing world don't need to be. Routine treatment costing as little as $25 can restore sight and hope.