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Is a 1.5CM-long thin plastic piece strong enough to restore sight for people? Is a 1.5CM-long thin plastic piece strong enough to restore sight for people?

Is a 1.5CM-long thin plastic piece strong enough to restore sight for people?

Cataract is the leading cause of blindness, accounting for half of the cases worldwide. Fortunately cataract can be cured through a simple and straightforward surgery. Surgeons remove the cloudy lens and insert a small plastic piece called intraocular lens (IOL) into the patient’s eye which allows them to see again. It is considered the most cost-effective surgery in the world.

While cataract surgery is a common procedure in developed countries and districts like Hong Kong, it is not the case in some remote parts of the world. Poverty, inability to afford the surgery, low awareness to eye diseases and limited medical capacity prevent patients from accessing surgery. With no alternatives, people are trapped in darkness.

Founder of The Fred Hollows Foundation, Professor Fred Hollows, believed that the cost of sight-saving surgery had to be lowered to allow more people to find the treatment they desperately needed. Regaining sight means adults can work and children attend school, giving hope and more opportunities to break the cycle of poverty.
To help someone to see was a tremendous feeling and with medical and technological advances, we have greatly increased the ability of eye doctors to give that help.

- Professor Fred Hollows

Fred worked tirelessly in his final years to open intraocular lens factories, making cataract surgery more affordable. Making an IOL in western countries would cost hundreds of dollars. However, Fred knew if they were made locally, they’d become significantly more affordable.

His dreams came true in 1994 after he passed away. Two IOL factories in his name were opened in Eritrea and Nepal. The costs of manufacturing an IOL dropped to HKD$50 which is more affordable to people in need.

Since its inception in 1994, The Fred Hollows IOL Factory in Eritrea has produced more than 2 million intraocular lenses. The Factory plays a critical role in eliminating avoidable blindness in Eritrea where about 9% of the population is blind, with cataract responsible for 55 percent of cases.

The only IOL factory in Africa has emerged as the “go-to” for new IOL technology and design and has produced around 2.5 million lenses since its formation.

According to the factory’s manager Mengisteab T Berhan, The Fred Hollows Intraocular Lens Laboratory (IOL) has received a number of quality and excellence awards from the UK and USA. More than 80 percent of the total production has been exported to Asian countries, 10 percent to African countries and 10 percent to local markets.

“Everything done in this factory ripples out into the community by helping to restore vision to thousands of patients in Eritrea”, Mengisteab said.

Lemlem is one of the 5,262 people who have had their sight restored thanks to IOLs produced by the factory.

“My vision was suddenly cloudier, and I felt like I'm looking at everything through some kind of fog or veil. I hated making coffee because I used to pour a lot on the floor. I was unable to see the hole on the pot.

“A friend of mine told me that she had the same problem, but moments after the operation she was able to see again. The first thing I will do once I get home, is to make coffee for my husband. I miss making that nice coffee every morning for him. I am thrilled with the results and I want to thank The Fred Hollows Foundation for restoring my sight,” Lemlem said.

We have started the journey and you can continue to support this important work. Donate monthly and help restore sight and change lives. Support now.