Thanks to the generosity and direction of Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD), Orbis is delivering much needed eye care to the Rohingya community living in South East Bangladesh. Over a period of two months, this expansion of Qatar Creating Vision provided nearly 5,000 eye tests and over 2,700 treatments – a treatment rate of over 50%.
Since work began, 159 surgeries have been carried out for conditions such as cataract. Many are living with treatable conditions in a very difficult environment. An environment that has become more desperate in recent weeks with heavy rains, making this support even more critical.
Orbis is working closely with Cox’s Bazar Baitush Sharaf Hospital, various NGOs, and the local government to provide as much assistance to both the Rohingya and local population as possible.
Alongside the medical programme, Orbis is training 44 community leaders; Majhee, Imams, school teachers and social workers, to conduct basic eye tests, spot eye conditions and refer people to the Orbis screening centre. Within the camps, there are also designated safe places for children to learn and play. Thanks to the support of the Qatar Fund for Development, Orbis is working with local partners to provide eye screenings to children within these areas.
His Excellency, Mr. Khalifa Al Kuwari, Director General of the Qatar Fund for Development commented: “Through Qatar Creating Vision, we have been able to help millions across India and Bangladesh. Following the great influx of people to South East Bangladesh over the past year, we wanted to look at ways to expand the work we are doing with Orbis, to support the large number of Rohingya refugees and local community struggling with vision loss. By working with Orbis, we can use the combined expertise of our partners to build a programme specifically for the region.”
Rebecca Cronin, Chief Executive, Orbis UK commented: “Most of us are really lucky to have ready access to eye care, whilst for others, a routine eye test is beyond their reach. The Rohingya people have experienced terrible suffering and require extensive medical care.
“Thanks to the vital support of the Qatar Fund for Development, we have been able to work with our partners to provide thousands of eye tests and over 2,500 treatments to both the Rohingya and local community. People are attending the screening camps with very advanced cataracts, infections and refractive error. These are conditions that we can help treat and provide relief for.”
Check out this beautiful video which gives you an idea of our work and why we do it:
In November 2017, Her Royal Highness, The Countess of Wessex, visited sight saving work supported by Qatar in Bangladesh. This activity is undertaken by eye care charity Orbis and local hospitals. The first stop was Ispahani Islamia Eye Institute & Hospital in Dhaka. There she met patients and staff including Head Nurse, Mammoth Adhikary, who took part in the first Orbis Flying Eye Hospital programme in Bangladesh in 1985!
The Countess continued to Chittagong where the 10th Bangladesh Flying Eye Hospital programme was underway, visiting both the plane and the partner – Chittagong Eye Infirmary & Training Complex.
She was enchanted by four-year old Fatima, who could see after cataract surgery performed by the amazing local medical staff and Orbis volunteers. Fatima was very happy with her snazzy new sunglasses and super teddy, which kept a big grin on her face.
The work The Countess visited was to explore and celebrate Qatar Creating Vision, supported by the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) led by Orbis. Her Royal Highness continued her Orbis adventure to Qatar to discuss what she had seen.
To date, 3 million eye tests have been provided to children and 27,000 training sessions for doctors, teachers and community workers have been conducted across India and Bangladesh.
Her Royal Highness, The Countess of Wessex commented: “As Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, I am keenly aware of the vast numbers of blind and visually impaired people across the world whose lives might be very different if they could access treatment.
“Following my recent visit to Bangladesh with Orbis, where I met children whose lives are being transformed by receiving quality eye care, I am delighted by the vital support the Qatar Fund for Development has given. Children are missing out on opportunities to learn, to play, to have big dreams and achieve them, simply because they don’t have access to a pair of glasses or routine surgery. Qatar Creating Vision is helping to change this and is reaching those desperately in need of help.”
Photos courtesy of Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock
Figures suggest the number of people who are blind globally could triple by 2050.
A new paper by the Vision Loss Expert Group has been published in the Lancet, updating our knowledge on the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment. It estimates that in 2015, 36 million people globally were blind and 217 million were visually impaired. Thanks to efforts from across the eye health sector, we can see a decrease in the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment across the world’s population.
However, most visual impairment occurs in older age – due to conditions such as cataract, the world’s leading cause of blindness. The report reveals that unless we improve access to eye health services, an aging and growing global population means that we could see the number of people who are blind triple to 115 million by 2050.
The research highlights the importance of investing in preventing and treating avoidable visual impairment, through cost-effective means such as cataract surgery or spectacles.
There are still huge inequities across the globe, with 89% of the world’s visually impaired living in low or middle income countries, particularly in Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa. Qatar Creating Vision is committed to brining eye care closer to home for those who need it most across India and Bangladesh.
In 2017, TOITOMBOOR, a very popular magazine focused on child development across arts, health, education and a champion for those with special needs, organised a fair to celebrate their 25th anniversary.
The magazine has a strong focus on child eye health and therefore invited Orbis Bangladesh to educate their attendees about Qatar Creating Vision and eye health. Orbis provided free eye health check-ups for children at their stand with the help of another partner, the National Institute of Ophthalmology and Hospital (NIO&H). People were very interested in learning more about how to take care of their eyes and 36 children received eye screening. Several were identified as needing glasses and were swiftly referred to the hospital for further help.
The day was a great success with over 500 people attending and lots of fun family activities to take part in. The Orbis/Qatar Creating Vision Stand also received a visit from model Nobel who was keen to show his support for the improvement of eye health services for children.
The month of August 2017 saw a great expansion of services to rural communities surrounding Ispahani Islamia Eye Institute in Bangladesh. Three brand new Vision Centres opened to the public, which were inundated with eager potential patients on their very first day.
The new centres are linked to the main hospital via skype with vision technicians able to consult and receive mentorship from the hospitals ophthalmologists. This process enables patients with more complicated conditions to be screened locally and then referred to the main hospital when necessary.
One of the areas that is benefiting from a new eye health facility is Amtoli, is a very remote area in Bangladesh and prone to natural disasters. Until their new Vision Centre arrived, there was previously no access to eye care. Those suffering from eye conditions were required to travel to Patuakhali District or Barisal City which took a considerable amount of time and money to reach. The new centre now brings quality services to their doorstep.
On the 27th July 2017, eye care charity Orbis launched their new REACH programme in Madhya Pradesh, alongside Shri Sadguru Sewa Sangh Trust, as part of the Qatar Creating Vision initiative.
Supported by Qatar Fund for Development, REACH, which stands for Refractive Error Amongst CHildren, will see Orbis work alongside 11 hospitals and Sightsavers across India. This collaboration of forces will provide children with access to glasses and specialist eye treatment, by improving eye health services and working within schools to identify children struggling with their vision.
The launch was attended by key figures from Orbis India, Shri Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust and from the Madhya Pradesh district government. The day began with a flag off ceremony and was followed by an eye health rally, where a team of paramedics and students from the Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya hospital, walked through the streets of Chitrakoot, shouting and waving placards with important messages about healthy vision to the public.
The day also featured a tree planting ceremony and finished with a school screening in Chitrakoot. The day was a great success and a brilliant way start to a programme that will deliver 4.5 million screenings and treatments for children across the country.
In 2017 five enthusiastic students travelled from London and Doha to Pune, India, with eye care charity Orbis. The trip was part of a journalism internship the charity runs through the support of ACS International Schools and enabled the students to view their work, learn about issues affecting those with eye conditions and to find out about Qatar Creating Vision.
Hana and Roberta from ACS Hillingdon, Lillian from ACS Egham, Ruthie from ACS Cobham and Joshua from ACS Doha, visited a range of eye care services, from the H V Desai Hospital in Pune, to a school eye care screening in the hills of Panchgani. They also visited a school for blind students and watched as 150 people had their bandages removed following cataract surgery – patients from just one morning’s surgery list. India has one of the highest blindness rates in the world; eight million people are entirely blind, of which 320,000 are children.
Joshua wrote a beautiful blog about his experience.
Through the looking glass
At first I was a bit reluctant about making this trip. What could I possibly give and receive from the experience? But, as the time drew closer the more excited I became. Admittedly, it is now all too clear that I was excited about the trip for the wrong reasons. The thought of being away on my own without my parents or any family members for the first time, coupled with having the hotel room completely to myself seemed like bliss. My parents tell me that I’ve lived my life in a protective bubble and that there’s so much more out there. I’ve always understood what they were saying to an extent and, even though I’ve travelled all over the world, I don’t believe I’ve truly looked at the world through my own eyes until now. Once we started the three hour bus trip to Pune from Mumbai my eyes opened, I gained a new clarity.
Driving through Mumbai it felt like the glass window represented the barrier between the impoverished and the privileged. The question of “why can’t they all be on the other side of the glass?” constantly bounced around in my head. On their side of the window pane people lived in rusted galvanized shacks and huts with drops of rain running through the cracks. People cleaned themselves with water from buckets surrounded by wet mud and an ocean of litter. Dilapidated buildings with plants, vines and trees crawling the walls inhabit these densely populated area. Why did I end up on this side of the glass? Most of these people weren’t’ given a chance to choose how they live. I see now we take such simple things like a bedroom with a bed for granted.
To read the rest of Joshua’s blog, click here.
On 26 July 2016, Orbis and BRAC signed an agreement to strengthen community eye health services across four districts in Bangladesh, increasing access to eye care for children. This activity forms part of our new Qatar Creating Vision initiative.
Attendees of the signing ceremony included:
● Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Chairman of BRAC
● Dr. Kaosar Afsana, Director, Health Nutrition & Population Programme, BRAC
● Dr. Munir Ahmed, Country Director of Bangladesh, Orbis
● Mohammed Alauddin, Director of Programs, Orbis
Eye care charity Orbis, BRAC, the largest development organization in the world, and eight hospitals, will work together to improve access to eye care for children across the county over the next four years. Supported by the Qatar Fund for Development, the initiative will conduct one million eye tests, treat 100,000 children with uncorrected refracted error, and perform 10,200 eye surgeries.
In collaboration with Qatar Creating Vision partners, BRAC will strengthen community interventions in the Mymensingh, Dinajpur, Khulna and Comilla areas by conducting school eye screenings and educating teachers and front line community workers about the symptoms of eye health.
Bangladesh has approximately 51,200 blind children and 1.3 million have refractive errors. An additional 153,000 children are affected by low vision problems, all of which limit their ability to receive an education.
Dr. Munir, expressed on the occasion “Together we can do more and we are already working to improve lives and livelihoods across the country. In eye health we have committed to achieving the Vision 2020 goal of eliminating avoidable blindness in children and without universal eye health coverage this would be impossible. Working with BRAC, Orbis will reach out to the children in four regions to provide quality eye care.
“We go beyond the traditional approach. We will not only build the capacity of hospitals, but work with communities, ensuring we can provide treatment for the most vulnerable group – children. They are very much top of the agenda for both BRAC and Orbis. We are thrilled by this partnership which will demonstrate the integration of eye health into the development agenda, contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals as well.”