South Africa


South Africa is home to a large blind population and has a severe shortage of ophthalmologists who serve South Africans living in rural areas. In all of South Africa, most of the 324 ophthalmologists work in populous cities. There are approximately six ophthalmologists serving every million South Africans, however due to urbanisation, the few ophthalmologists that work in rural areas are serving the majority of the population. Countrywide, there are a few fully qualified paediatric ophthalmologists and 30% of the population is under the age of 15. More than 11% of persons in the age group between 5 and 19 have mild to severe visual impairment.


Orbis Africa is developing specialised services for children’s eye health.

We are focusing on early intervention with children under the age of six, while their sight is still developing.

Orbis Africa is speeding up the detection of eye-health problems in young children and fast-tracking their treatment and follow-up care.

• We are working with partners to reduce the backlog in adult cataract surgery that will allow key teaching facilities to focus on essential teaching and paediatric services.


To combat this lack of available eye care, we established an office in Cape Town to develop specialised services for children’s eye health and lead the way for a sustainable, comprehensive model for paediatric eye care that is accessible, high quality and affordable.

Following the success of Orbis’s first project in South Africa, which established a tertiary child eye care hospital and strengthened the eye health system in KwaZulu-Natal, Orbis Africa was invited to work in Gauteng Province. In 2015 Orbis signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Gauteng Provincial Department of Health, establishing a formal relationship to strengthen eye health services in Gauteng Province.

Through a dynamic public private partnership with the Gauteng Department of Health and national retailer Truworths, Orbis has transformed the Eye Clinic at Lenasia South Community Health Centre. The upgrade has resulted in strengthened eye health services at the facility and an improved patient experience.

We work closely with partners to advocate for a comprehensive framework that sees child eye health integrated into the broader healthcare system as part of a child’s overall development.


In 2011, we opened our state-of-the-art Paediatric Eye Care Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, one of South Africa’s poorest and most populous provinces, and home to 28 percent of the country’s blind children.

• This centre makes KwaZulu-Natal only the second province to have a child-focused eye care facility in the country.

• In 2017 we opened the second cataract surgical centre in Gauteng that is equipped and resourced to tackle the significant backlog in adult cataract surgery in the province.

• We implemented ground breaking work at a grass-roots level through collaboration with Early Childhood Development practitioners and Traditional Healers in the informal sector.

• A consortium of partners consisting of the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Orbis Africa and Dublin Institute of Technology has committed to a five-year collaboration, with national government, to develop an integrated framework for comprehensive child eye health services in South Africa. One of the key objectives of the consortium is to advocate and work in synergy to support the National Departments of Health, Basic Education and Social Development to deliver services to children as prescribed in the existing national and international policy and campaigns

Read our latest success story from South Africa here: Clothing Retailer Invests Millions to Fight Blindness in South Africa.


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