This month marks 18 years since the world lost Fred Hollows. One of his closest friends, the Australian author Thomas Keneally, pays tribute to the professor’s work and fighting spirit.

“Fred was the toughest and most morally impelled man I’ve ever met,” says Keneally.

“To travel to difficult regions, areas which only the healthy should venture to, and to do so while suffering from a terminal illness, and then stand up for the good with all the force of a super-hero - well, I’ve never met anyone else who could do that.

“They say individuals are replaceable.

“In fact, Fred was irreplaceable.”

The friendship between Hollows and Keneally was sparked by a shared interest in the Eritrean peoples’ fight for independence.

Both men first visited in the 1980s.

Inspired by the tenacity of the Eritreans, the eye surgeon went on to train hundreds of local ‘barefoot doctors' to cure cataract blindness using intraocular lenses. The author published a novel, Towards Asmara, which drew attention to the political causes of famine in the country.

Soon after this, Fred visited Vietnam and committed to training 322 local eye specialists in modern surgery techniques. He honoured his promise by checking out of hospital while terminally ill to return to Vietnam shortly before his death in 1993.  
Eighteen years later, Fred’s dream of a world where people everywhere have access to quality eye care lives on through The Foundation’s work in 19 countries.

>Find out more about The Foundation's continuing work to end avoidable blindness.