Kovin Naidoo

Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation
Year founded: 
South Africa

BHVIF believes that fair access to basic eye care services can provide individuals with the chance for improved quality of life and the development of healthy and prosperous communities.

Focus: Health, Eye care
Geographic Area of Impact: Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Argentina, Guyana, Jamaica, Nicaragua
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 550,385 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 12 million
Percentage Earned Revenue: 20%
Recognition: Regional Social Entrepreneurs of the Year, Africa, 2010

At least 670 million people, mostly in the developing world, are blind or vision impaired simply because they do not have access to a basic eye examination and a pair of glasses. Of those, at least 153 million suffer from treatable blindness or distance vision impairment, and a further 517 million due to near-sightedness, all caused by uncorrected refractive error. The link between poverty and avoidable blindness is indisputable. Uncorrected vision impairment causes profound economic disadvantages to individuals, their families and societies. People living with uncorrected vision impairment are most likely to be excluded from basic education, suffer from isolation and have fewer employment opportunities.

Innovation and Activities
The mission of the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation (BHVIF) is to eliminate avoidable blindness and visual impairment due to uncorrected refractive error by developing sustainable solutions for communities in need. BHVIF uses a four-pronged strategy that focuses on: human resource development (supporting the development of optometry schools, training eye care personnel and local individuals as educators); service development (establishment of vision centres and other sites for eye care); research (keeping programmes relevant and effective); and social enterprise (helping with job creation and local ownership of vision centres).

BHVIF works in 11 countries in Africa, 14 in the Asia-Pacific region, three in the Middle East and four in Latin America. Through its Vision Centres, the organization provides direct screening services and prescribes glasses. It also focuses on public sector capacity building to deliver eye care services, and has developed its own global supply chain and resource centre to significantly reduce the cost of glasses and equipment for its own use, other NGOs and public providers.

The Entrepreneurs
Professors Brien Holden and Kovin Naidoo are both internationally recognized public health leaders in eye care. After meeting at a conference in South Korea in 1997, where they discovered their shared vision for addressing preventable blindness, they established BHVIF in Australia and South Africa. Holden has had a distinguished career in optometry and vision science and holds leadership positions in academia as well as the non-profit sector. Naidoo began as a political activist in South Africa, and after the country’s democratic elections in 1994 he decided to use his profession as a vehicle to address social injustices. He remains passionate concerning the socio-economic impact preventable blindness has on people, and developing global delivery systems to make basic eye care accessible to all.