Saving sight in Bangladesh
Jainab Bibi and her husband Abul Hossain are not camera shy – and proudly show off their matching specs! Jainab, 60, explains that they both had their eye sight restored through cataract surgery on the same day, through the Dhaka Urban Eye Care Project in Bangladesh.
“I had cataract in both my eyes and so did my husband,” she says. “We couldn’t see anything.”
It was Abul who found out about an eye screening camp that was coming to their community, through their mosque. The couple were diagnosed with cataract, and taken to the Islamia Eye Hospital for surgery.
An integral part of the project is the bus service laid on free of charge for very poor people, to transport patients identified at screening camps to the hospital. This helps make sure that expensive transport costs don’t stop patients receiving treatment.
Another important part of the service is the counselling provided by the medical staff at the hospital, to help patients understand more about the surgical treatment, and aftercare. This is an important process, as people can be very nervous before surgery, and this reassurance helps put them at ease.
Benefiting from counselling
Khairun Nesa, 65, was almost completely blind with cataract in both eyes. “I had to ask people what was going on and how to get around,” she says. She was diagnosed by community health workers in her area who are trained to identify people suffering from eye conditions and refer them to Islamia Eye Hospital if they need specialist treatment. Khairun received counselling and support before she went into the operating theatre.
Khairun is overcome with excitement when her bandages come off. “I can now clearly see. Thank you everyone. I am so happy!” she says. “I have not had sight like this since my childhood, it’s very clear”.
The importance of ambassadors
People like Rokeya Begum are really important to the success of projects like this. Rokeya, who is 45, has also had her eye sight restored through the project. “At hospital they took good care of me. I have never met such good people. I’m very grateful and pray for them.”
Rokeya is a great ambassador for the project in her community, and she is always telling people how good the service is. Word-of-mouth is an important way to spread awareness about available treatment and services, especially among communities who either have mistrust of surgical interventions, or simply don’t know that help is available.
Rokeya heard about the screening camp that diagnosed her cataract through a miking where she lives in the slum area of Bashbari in Mohammadpur, Dhaka. Miking involves health workers walking up and down the streets with microphones, calling out the time and place of the next community eye screening camp.
She is now recovering nicely, and is wearing the dark glasses that all post-operative cataract patients are supposed to wear for one month after surgery, to protect their eyes from glare. “I am very happy now I can see through both my eyes,” she says. “It’s much easier for me to get around and do things for myself. Before I couldn’t see faces clearly but now I recognise everyone clearly and can do all the work I used to.”