To celebrate the completion of one of Sightsavers’ longest running eye health projects, Seeing is Believing, we caught up with healthcare professionals at the Bangladesh National Society for the Blind Eye Hospital in the capital city, Dhaka.
During the project, which ran across Africa and South Asia, we trained more than 185,700 health workers. Here two of those trainees tell us how their careers have progressed since their training, over a decade ago.
Dr Sheikh Md Robiul Alam is a surgeon at the hospital. Since his training, he has carried out over 14,000 cataract operations.
“It’s a mind-blowing experience for us. We are actually making this surgery accessible to poor people.
“When we bring people to our screening camps and I perform the surgery, I’m part of their life. When I open their bandage one day after their operation, it’s emotional. For the patient it’s like a new day; they were blind, now they see everything, like a new sun rising on their life.
“So this is a touching thing for me, as a surgeon.
“Since completing my training in 2008, I have carried out more than 14,000 cataract surgeries. I was supported by Sightsavers until 2015, but now our organisation is able to use its own funds to perform the operations.”
Mr Kaiser Ahmed is an optometrist who assesses if patients need a prescription for glasses.
“I joined Bangladesh National Society for the Blind Eye Hospital in 2009 and was selected to go for training in 2010 to learn how to assess low-vision patients. It was organised by Sightsavers and was 45 days long.
“Before receiving this training, I only knew the definition of a low-vision patient, but I didn’t have any knowledge about how to assess them and treat them. At the training I learned how to treat patients with low vision.”
“I got a lot of benefits from the training. For optometrists it’s very important to become an expert in prescribing glasses. I also prescribe many other low-vision aids, for instance a simple torch light, or sunglasses for patients with albinism.
“Eye health in Bangladesh is definitely improving, and gradually awareness of the importance of eye health is increasing.”
Anwar (centre) is director of the hospital. He highlights how surgeons such as Dr Alam have been able to reach even isolated rural communities, through the project's mobile screening camps. “We are very grateful for Sightsavers’ assistance, to conduct eye camps throughout Bangladesh, because it’s very costly. Most people from the remotest areas of the country cannot get to the district town or the capital for eye treatment.”