Patients waiting to be examined at King Khaled hospital, Bujumbura, Burundi.

Patients waiting to be examined at King Khaled hospital, Bujumbura, Burundi.

The government of Burundi in East Africa is determined to work with The Foundation to implement a much-needed eye care strategy for this densely populated nation.


Burundi, officially known as the Republic of Burundi, is one of the poorest countries in the world and among the smallest in Africa. It has a population density of 312 people per square kilometre, the second highest population density in sub-Saharan Africa.

Patients are examined outside makeshift accommodation tents at King Khaled hospital, Bujumbura, Burundi. Burundi is in urgent need of eye care because government services are limited and there are only ten ophthalmologists in the country (and only two of them perform eye surgery). Eight of the ten ophthalmologists are based in the capital city of Bujumbura, and mainly provide optical services.

In 2009, The Fred Hollows Foundation began work in Burundi by conducting a successful pilot surgical campaign in the Ngozi District, restoring sight to 183 cataract patients. We have since determined the overall eye health needs of the district and will commence our long term program in 2012.

The Vice President of Burundi, Dr Yves Sahinguvu, has acknowledged The Foundation’s dedication to supporting the people of Burundi and improving eye care services.

Achievements: 2012

Working together with our local partners, The Foundation:

  • Trained three clinic support staff and 32 community health workers
  • Completed renovation of Ngozi Hospital, which now contains an optical shop, pharmacy, fully equipped stock room and optometric technician rooms
  • Commenced a new program in the North Region to build health facilities, which will provide care for more than 1.2 million people
  • Delivered $80,000 in medical equipment.

Facts and figures

Eye health
Number of blind people approx 87,000
Main causes of blindness cataract (50%), uncorrected refractive error (10%), and childhood blindness (5%)
Number of people with cataract blindness 48,000 (backlog) and an annual incidence of 9,600 cases
Number of cataract operations performed annually 125 operations per million people
Number of ophthalmologists 10 known (of which only 2 perform surgery)
General health
Population  8.7 million
Urban population 11%
Life expectancy 50.9 years
Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 births) 88
Adult Literacy rate 67%
Population living on $1.25 a day 81%
Children (0-5 years) underweight for age 29%
Number of doctors (per 10,000 people) less than 0.5

Sources: UNDP Human Development Report 2013

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.