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Sightsavers Reports

Catching up with the health workers we trained more than 10 years ago

Three men stand outside a hospital entrance.

Bangladesh is among the world’s most densely populated countries, yet it has one of the highest rates of untreated cataracts worldwide. To meet the huge demand for healthcare, it is crucial to invest in professional development for health workers.

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.

A man sitting in a operating theatre,

Dr Sheikh Md Robiul Alam

A man sitting in a operating theatre,

Dr Sheikh Md Robiul Alam is a surgeon at the hospital. Since his training, he has carried out over 14,000 cataract operations.

“Sightsavers gave me the opportunity to have training at Islamia Eye Hospital in 2008. I took part in the residential training programme for short incision cataract surgery with a group of medical graduates.

“I was given notes on the anatomy of the eye, physiology and how to perform cataract surgery.

“The first two weeks we practised performing the surgery under observation on goats!

“Once my hands were skilled, senior professors discussed my progression and I was able to move on to humans. Over the 10 weeks of training, I carried out cataract operations on 52 people.

“It’s difficult for people with cataracts to survive in our society; they are treated like a burden. They cannot see anything and they have to seek help from their family members, who are often also very poor. These people are extremely neglected.”

Had we not received training from Sightsavers, we could not have reached these extremely poor people with medical care.
A man smiling.

“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.”

A man standing in an eye testing room.

Mr Kaiser Ahmed

A man standing in an eye testing room.

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 learned how to provide counselling services to the patients, so the training helped me a lot.
A man smiling.

“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.”

Three men talking in the lobby of a hospital.

Anwar Hossain

Three men talking in the lobby of a hospital.

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.”

A man wearing a suit.

Khondoker Mohidhul Islam

Khondoker is the deputy director of the hospital and oversaw implementing Seeing is Believing. “The project made a remarkable difference to eye health in Bangladesh, because every year hundreds of thousands of people received cataract operations, glasses, and other forms of medicine”, he explains.

“Surgery and even glasses can change a person’s life entirely. I often meet some of these people who received surgery, they are so grateful. I know a woman that before surgery used to be treated as a burden to society. Her family members did not respect her. But now she runs a shop, she is contributing to the family’s income and has become an asset, not only to her family but also to society.

“In this way, hundreds of thousands of people have gained the ability to earn an income. They can now lead an independent life and I think this is a remarkable impact of the programme.”

Three men stand in a waiting room in a hospital.

“Eye health in Bangladesh is definitely improving, and gradually awareness of the importance of eye health is increasing.”

Three men stand in a waiting room in a hospital.

Learn more about the impact of our work

Seeing is Believing

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