Orbis UK annual report 2021

A story of ingenuity
in challenging times


Welcome from our CEO and Chairman

In many respects, 2021 has presented even greater challenges than 2020, when the pandemic broke.

But, thanks to the resilience and ingenuity of staff and partners – and to your relentless commitment to saving sight – we're still able to reflect positively on an exceptional year.

Like so many NGOs, sudden and severe cuts to the UK Aid budget left some of our projects unfunded and in jeopardy.

I'm sad to say that the real-life impact of these cuts was felt in places in urgent need of eye care, like Mymensingh, Bangladesh and Gedeo in Ethiopia. However, we still managed to implement 16 projects in Asia and Africa.

And we've been able to mitigate the effects of the cuts by reallocating funds and collaborating with others to find solutions.

The most significant of these collaborations was with fellow NGO Sightsavers in Ethiopia, whose financial input contributed to the delivery of 8.1 million doses of trachoma antibiotics in Ethiopia, nearly 3 million more than planned (see page 10).

And thanks to further longstanding partnerships we expect to restart many stalled programmes in 2022.

The pandemic continued to disrupt sight-saving eye care programmes in 2021. School closures in Nepal prevented eye screening activities from taking place as normal.

But Orbis partners developed a 'dual screening' approach, giving children access to eye care at school and following up with their parents and families at home. We're delighted to report that, in total, more than 1 million screenings were carried out, 30% more than our target (see page 8), giving thousands more children a better chance to realise their potential.

Much of our training in 2021 focused on supporting health professionals like Sarita from Nepal (see page 13). Sarita is a shining example of how sharing expertise can set young optometrists on their sight-saving career journeys.

We have also shared practical knowledge to help deliver eye care in Covid-safe ways. Nowhere has this been more critical than in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, with frontline health workers. We continue to help meet the urgent need for eye care in this region, which, since 2018, has hosted more than 1 million forcibly displaced Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Please take a moment to read Zamir's story on page 11 to understand the life-changing effects of affordable cataract surgery for people living in Cox's Bazar.

Despite some unavoidable setbacks to our programmes, we remain in good health financially, raising close to £6 million this year – our income being spread across legacies, individuals, trusts, foundations, corporate partners and statutory funds. This financial stability has underpinned a thriving team here in the UK, who have continued to show remarkable instincts to adapt to a fast-moving and challenging development landscape.

We're particularly proud of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) working group, which has introduced a range of initiatives, including awareness‑raising of race inequality, unconscious bias training and anonymised recruitment. As we enter 2022, our board of trustees is now predominantly female, and we operate hybrid working to accommodate the needs and wishes of all staff.

The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital will return to the skies this year, carrying out vital specialist training sessions. It will also mark its 40th anniversary. Since 1982, it has delivered 316 programmes in more than 95 countries, providing urgently needed access to eye care for millions of people around the world.

"So, as we look to 2022 and beyond, we draw hope and inspiration from all our staff, supporters, partners and people we work with. With a strategic focus on raising awareness, we will attract many more donors. Together, we can support more vital programme work saving people’s sight around the world."

Rebecca Cronin, CEO, Orbis UK
Nick Fox, Chair, Orbis UK

Report Overview

Who we are
and what we do

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

Our Vision

To make eye care available everywhere, for everyone, so no one has to experience the consequences of avoidable blindness.

Our Mission

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

1.11.1 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 among communities about the importance of eye health.

  • We partner with local hospitals, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and governments so they can strengthen and improve eye health services.

Working with our partners, we share knowledge and expertise to help develop the skills and capacity of eye care teams. We also raise awareness about the importance of eye health so more people seek treatment, and we improve access to quality eye care for people who need it. 

Linn, a young girl from Myanmar, after receiving treatment

Our global reach – Orbis International

Orbis UK is an affiliate of Orbis International (OI), which is based in the USA. Orbis UK funds projects overseen by six other country offices and supports the development and implementation of the larger of these projects.

The vast majority of people who are blind and visually impaired live in low to middle income countries. 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

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.