FedEx Corp. today announced its plans to donate $5.5 million over the next five years to ORBIS International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of blindness worldwide. This pledge represents the largest contribution commitment FedEx has made to ORBIS since joining forces more than 20 years ago to save sight.

Nearly 37 million men, women and children worldwide are blind and 75 percent do not need to be, said Oliver Foot, president and executive director of ORBIS. The vast majority of world blindness can be treated or prevented with existing therapies and eye care resources. Thats where ORBIS and FedEx come in. By working together, we can deliver education, training and treatment where it is needed most.

Blindness has profound human and socioeconomic consequences in all societies, particularly in the developing world where lost productivity, rehabilitation and education of the blind are significant burdens.

Leading health organization estimate the direct economic cost of blindness to be about $42 billion, yet treatments to prevent and cure blindness are among the most successful and cost-effective of all health interventions, said David J. Bronczek, president and chief executive officer of FedEx Express. Thats why FedEx has renewed and expanded its long-time commitment to working with ORBIS to help eradicate one of the worlds most devastating, yet solvable, health challenges.

A Growing Problem

According to the World Health Organization, one to two million people go blind every year. One adult loses their sight every five seconds, and another child goes blind every minute. The leading cause of blindness worldwide is cataract, followed by glaucoma and then age-related macular degeneration.

The only sustainable solution to the problem of avoidable blindness is to provide medical communities in developing countries with skills, knowledge and resources to prevent and cure blindness on their own, explained Dr. Eugene Helveston, ORBIS chief ophthalmologist. The increased support from FedEx helps ensure that we give more people access to much-needed eye care services that industrialized societies often take for granted.

A Focused Approach

The new, multi-million dollar commitment from FedEx runs from 2006 through 2011, and includes financial, logistical and operational support for ORBIS and its Flying Eye Hospital the worlds only DC-10 aircraft converted into a state-of-the-art teaching facility and ophthalmic surgical center.

The latest FedEx contribution is designed to enhance the signature Delivering Sight Worldwide initiative developed by FedEx and ORBIS several years ago. At no cost to ORBIS, FedEx has agreed to:

  • Create a new fellowship program the FedEx Fellows in which ORBIS will award 10 medical training fellowships to ophthalmologists around the world over the next five years
  • Support 10 ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital programs held in various host countries, which are provided entirely free-of-charge to both host countries and patients. The first of these FedEx-sponsored medical programs is taking place in Danang, Vietnam from October 9-20, 2006.
  • Provide employee-volunteer support during ORBIS medical programs, and help increase awareness about avoidable blindness.
  • Deliver urgently-needed medical supplies to ORBIS programs sites all over the world.
  • Manage the cost and completion of routine and critical maintenance procedures, including the annual safety checks for the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital to ensure its airworthiness. FedEx will also provide spare aircraft components as needed.
  • Provide volunteer FedEx pilots to fly the plane to its sight-saving programs, and train all other volunteer pilots.

A Record of Success

More than three million people have received direct medical treatment since the inception of ORBIS in 1982. In addition, more than 120,000 healthcare professionals have enhanced their skills through ORBIS training programs in 85 countries.

It is through innovative programs and partnerships that ORBIS is able to produce long-term, sustainable solutions to preventable blindness that emphasize the training of medical personnel, strengthening of in-country eye care institutions, and expanding delivery of quality eye care and prevention strategies in the developing world.

FedEx has demonstrated its support of ORBIS throughout our history, and this renewed commitment provides a terrific boost to ORBIS in our 25th year of operations, Foot said. The unwavering generosity of FedEx helps us to confidently plan future programs with increased impact and to ensure that other donations we receive can be spent directly on saving sight.