Orbis UK annual report 2020

Fighting avoidable
blindness in a
global pandemic


Welcome from our CEO and Chairman

If there’s a single theme that sums up this extraordinary year, it’s one of common humanity.
Like everyone, we experienced a whole range of emotions last March as we began to absorb the full implications of the coronavirus pandemic. But, by responding to a fast-changing situation, learning, planning and adapting quickly – and doing all this together around the world as professionals, volunteers, teams and individuals – we’ve learned just how much we share.

The whole world now knows more about infection control and remote working than we ever imagined. But as eye health experts working in low-income, rural areas, we’re well accustomed to using technology to forge distanced human connections.

This year, under travel restrictions, local virtual consultations with ophthalmologists in regional hospitals were more critical than ever. And we found new ways to treat hard-to-reach patients too – like Rohingya refugee Shahed, whose innovative follow-up cataract treatment you can read about here.

Meanwhile, our unique Flying Eye Hospital teaching facility went fully virtual, connecting eye health experts with trainee doctors, nurses and health workers around the world. In total, we delivered 14,000 training sessions – nearly double our forecast at the beginning of the year. Just as importantly, as you’ll read on here, trained Orbis professionals showed the sort of courage and commitment we’re familiar with in our own NHS to deliver COVID-secure eye care on the ground.

Many of our projects were affected by hospitals suspending services and reallocating staff for COVID-19 patients. However, by capitalising on non-lockdown periods and working with local governments to find COVID-secure ways to sustain eye care services, we still managed to have a considerable impact. We provided 4.3 million doses of antibiotics to fight blinding trachoma in Ethiopia and supported 346,000 eye screenings and 41,000 treatments and surgeries around the world.

We also concluded the first phase of our Qatar Creating Vision project in South Asia in 2020. Supported by the Qatar Fund for Development, it has provided 6.7 million screenings and treatments and more than 82,000 training sessions over four years. Across all our projects this year, we screened a total of nearly 290,000 children. One of them was Sneha, from the Parsa district of Nepal. Her story here shows just how vital glasses prescriptions are for young people’s futures – wherever they live.

Sadly, we weren’t able to deliver all our project activities, which, of course, has affected how much programme work we’ve been able to raise funds for. But we started from a robust financial base, and our supporters have responded with astonishing steadfastness, loyalty and flexibility. At £4.89 million, our UK voluntary income actually exceeded our target by 24% – driven by phenomenal responses to two appeals for Ethiopia and Bangladesh.

We’re proud that our financial stability in an uncertain world has helped save the sight of people already facing enormous challenges in the pandemic. But, as treatment backlogs continue to mount and so many lives remain precarious, we have more work than ever still to do. We’ve been humbled and inspired by you, our supporters, as we’ve weathered this storm. It’s thanks to you, therefore, that we look forward with shared hope, humility and determination to 2021.

Rebecca Cronin (Chief Executive)

Rob Pinchbeck (Chairman)

“On behalf of our trustees, supporters and everyone we work with, I would like to thank the Orbis UK team, who overcame all the obstacles the world threw at us in an extremely challenging year and just kept going. We are all hugely grateful for their unswerving dedication and hard work.”
Rob Pinchbeck, Chairman---------------

Report Overview

Who we are
& what we do

Orbis is an international charity and leader in the global fight against avoidable blindness for nearly four decades.

Our Vision

To transform lives through the prevention and treatment of blindness

Our Mission

With our network of partners, we mentor, train and inspire local teams so they can save sight in their communities.

11 billion people in the world live with visual impairment

9090% live in low- and middle-income countries

5555% are women and girls

9090 million are children and adolescents

Our work changes the way the world sees

  • We provide specialist training and equipment for doctors, nurses and local eye care teams.

  • We carry out screening and treatment programmes and support the distribution of antibiotics for controlling trachoma.

  • We raise awareness and inspire communities about the importance of eye health.

  • We strengthen and improve eye health services by partnering with local hospitals, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and governments.

We work with partners in eye care teams – from health workers in rural clinics to eye surgeons in urban centres – so together we can save and restore vision, ensuring no-one has to face a life of avoidable blindness. 

Saliou goes back to school in Cameroon following cataract surgery.
Saliou goes back to school in Cameroon following cataract surgery.

Our global reach – Orbis International

Orbis UK is an affiliate of Orbis International, which is based in the USA. Along with six other affiliate offices, we work with other country offices to fund, develop, and implement local projects.

The vast majority of people that are blind and visually impaired live in developing countries. And older people, women and those living in rural and disadvantaged communities are particularly affected. We focus on where the need is greatest – in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Our Global Reach

Headquarters in New York

Fundraising Offices

Countries we work in

Eliminating avoidable blindness is one of the most cost-effective ways of fighting poverty. Orbis works to ensure everyone has sustainable access to quality eye care, no matter where they live.