Skip to content
Published: 27.09.2023
Alistair Wood Chief Executive
The Ridley Eye Foundation

The Ridley Eye Foundation is delighted to be joining the IAPB as of September 2023. We are a charity that is committed to reducing cataract blindness in the developing world.

Our mission is to provide free cataract surgery to the remote communities along the Himalayan Range above 2000m. Our work directly falls across six of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Access to eye health care and surgery is limited for these remote communities, and the costs of travel to facilities in the valleys and the surgery itself are, for many, prohibitive. Our purpose is to take free surgery to the patient, not the patient to the surgery.

Who we are

The charity was established in 1967 by Sir Harold Ridley the pioneer ophthalmologist who invented intra-ocular lens surgery. Its mission is to provide free cataract surgery to the most needy in the remote communities of Nepal along the Himalayan Range.

The purpose of the High Altitude Cataract Project is to take the surgery to the patient. We do this by working directly with partner hospitals and funding their outreach programmes and surgical camps. This means we are utilising not duplicating local expertise and experience, and we are therefore building additional capacity within the Nepalese medical infrastructure and working within the Nepalese government’s strategic eye care plan not in competition with it.

We have been working in Nepal since 2020 and have established our own subsidiary charity run by Nepalese trustees and financially controlled from the UK. In the past twelve months we have funded over 500 free operations, six screening camps, and two full surgical camps. We will continue a cycle of a minimum of six surgical camps per year.

The Need

The need in this socially and environmentally fragile region is substantial. 75% – 80% of preventable blindness in the mountainous areas of Nepal is due to cataracts. (ICEH 2019 RAAB Report Nepal). Access to this life changing surgery is difficult for poorer people in remote high altitude communities. This is due to cost, the terrain, and a lack of medical infrastructure outside the valleys and plains areas.

Climate change poses a serious threat to the Himalayan eco-system including the critical Himalayan ‘water tower’. These vulnerable communities, in an increasingly fragile ecological region, already face unprecedented challenges to their way of life. Preventable blindness increases social and economic pressure on these remarkably resilient but poor rural populations. Global warming threatens water security, which together with environmental and ecological damage, is already adversely affecting sustainable livelihoods.

The loss of sight has serious social and economic consequences for those affected. Climate change brings additional case of cataracts particularly amongst children, thereby impacting their education and limiting their life chances both socially and economically. Key challenges to surgery are problems of access, medical cost, the opportunity cost of accompanied travel and loss of earnings, and the lack of public information on the availability of surgery. In addition remote communities are feeling the impact of climate change on sustainable livelihoods, especially water, together with tourism induced environmental and ecological damage.

What we do

The Ridley Eye Foundation runs the High Altitude Cataract Project in Nepal. Its mission is to provide free cataract surgery to the remote communities along the Himalayan Range above 2000m. We work primarily in the Karnali, Gandaki, and Bagmati Provinces. Our mission falls across six of the UN Sustainable Development Goals:
Eliminate poverty
Good Health and Wellbeing
Quality education
Reduced inequalities
Sustainable communities
Combat impact of climate change

We run our surgical camps in the Spring and Autumn when access to remote communities is possible.

We aim to triage up to 1000 patients per camp of whom up to 150 may require cataract surgery on site. We also offer in patient surgery in our partner hospitals for those unable to pay. We aim to run at least 6 camps per year allows us to triage around 6000-7000 patients, and restore sight to around 700 people annually from 9 to 90 years of age. Since December 2022 we have:
Run 6 camps.
Triaged 4,500 patients.
Successfully operated on 550 cataract patients in the field.

And also operated pro bono on a further 200 patients referred to base hospital for more complicated cases including glaucoma and trachoma patients.


We measure the impact of our work as follows:
Cost per patient treated (value for money) currently £15.00 per patient.
Elimination or significant reduction in the financial and physical burden for the majority of cataract patients.
Social impact of restored sight on the patient and family. We aim to see an increase in the family economic productivity.
Feedback from village leaders on better social and cultural cohesion within the community as a result of the camp, and the scale of requests from the community for further camps.
Feedback from our partner hospitals on any increasing patient demand at subsequent camps.
Feedback from local health authorities on epidemiological data on presenting or reported cases of preventable blindness.

The Value of IAPB Membership to Us

Joining IAPB has been a logical step in our transition from a purely grant giving charity to one that actively participates in the reduction of preventable blindness. We look forward to collaborating with other IAPB members and contributing to the mission and values of IAPB.

Finally, in 2024 the Foundation celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the first intra-ocular lens implant in the cure of cataract blindness by the charity’s founder, Sir Harold Ridley. We are developing a programme of sponsored events both in the UK and Nepal including a charity climb of Mt Manaslu (8163m) in September 2024.