China has the highest burden of avoidable blindness in the world, accounting for almost 20% of the global total. Millions of people who are blind in China live in rural areas where availability and access to eye health services is limited. 

Our Work In China  

The ethnic diversity and remoteness of communities makes eliminating avoidable blindness particularly challenging. Women are also more likely to suffer eye health issues than men and are less likely to access eye care services.

While increasing wealth has improved eye health services in big cities, access to these services reflect the city-country divide. Urban centres often have well-equipped and fully-staffed hospitals, while health care in rural areas is generally inadequate and unaffordable.

Up to 80% of China’s blind population lives in rural areas, yet about 80% of the country’s 36,000 eye doctors work in urban hospitals. Many patients in poor and rural areas of China still cannot afford a simple cataract surgery.            

Cataract is the leading cause of blindness, accounting for almost half of all cases. Some 400,000 people become blind each year from cataract while around 7.58 million patients with cataract-related visual impairment or blindness still await surgery in China.

Diabetes has become an increasing problem, and diabetes-related eye disease such as diabetic retinopathy is on the rise. More than 116 million people have diabetes in China. This amounts to one in nine adults suffering from the disease, increasing their risk of becoming blind in the future.

Myopia is also emerging as a serious health burden for China. The number of students suffering myopia increases from 30% at primary school level, to 60% of junior high school, 80% of senior high school and 90% at university level. It is estimated that by 2050, about 66.8% of all people in China will suffer from myopia.

It is estimated that by 2050, about 66.8% of all people in China will suffer from myopia.



The Fred Hollows Foundation began working in China in 1998. For almost 10 years, The Foundation worked in Jiangxi Province on a project to prevent cataract blindness.  

In June 2011, The Foundation officially registered with the Yunnan Provincial Civil Affairs Department, to establish an office in Kunming. 

In 2012, a new five-year strategic plan was developed and The Foundation has worked in Yunnan, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Anhui, Xinjiang and other provinces and autonomous regions in central and western China.  

In July 2013, The Fred Hollows Foundation established an office in Beijing to work on advocacy and assist the government to formulate policies that take effective measures to provide better eye care services for rural residents.

In March 2017, The Foundation  was officially registered in China.

OUR PROGRAMS:                    

Over the past 22 years in China, The Foundation has adopted a holistic approach to end avoidable blindness, by setting up a high-quality comprehensive rural eye care model as well as advocating for its replication across China. 

The model is developed on key learnings from The Foundation’s years of project experience to apply health systems with a strengthening approach and gender specific focus. 

Strong partnerships have also been established  at national and local community levels. 

The Foundation is currently implementing comprehensive rural eye care projects in six provinces including Yunnan, Anhui, Xinjiang, Gansu, Hebei and Guangxi.


Helping people see:

  • 642,359 people screened
  • 290,875 eye operations and treatments performed including
  • 9,262 cataract operations
  • 2,896 diabetic retinopathy treatments
  • 278,717 other sight saving or improving interventions
  • 31,594 pairs of glasses distributed

Investing in people

  • 3,474 people trained including:
  • 52 surgeons
  • 58 clinic support staff
  • 2,337 community health workers
  • 842 teachers
  • 170,310 school children and community members educated in eye health

 Equipment and Technology
  • 181 medical facilities equipped
  • 1 training facility equipped
  • 75 schools equipped