09 July 2010, Dhaka. International development NGOs BRAC and Sightsavers have today launched an appeal to raise £3m to transform the lives of 100,000 poor Bangladeshi’s living in the Sylhet District by providing them with sight-restoring operations and eliminating treatable blindness.
In Bangladesh over one million people are blind, yet 80% of this blindness is due to cataract, a clouding of the eye’s lens, which can be cured with a straightforward and cost-effective operation. Sadly in Bangladesh, many people do not realise their blindness could be cured, or they don’t have the money or time to visit a hospital. Without surgery people can find themselves falling further into poverty as they become increasingly dependent on their family and stop going to work or school. Devastatingly 50% of children who go blind will die within two years.
In the north east region of Bangladesh, Sylhet, which has a population of 13 million, almost 60,000 people are blind, with cataract remaining the largest cause. With a huge waiting list for operations and around 9,000 new cases of cataract blindness occurring every year there are vast numbers of people who are needlessly blind. The Vision Bangladesh Appeal will target the poorest and most marginalised communities in the region, screening one million people between now and 2014 and providing operations, or glasses, for those who need them.
From teams of specially trained community health workers offering hygiene and general health information to cataract surgeons and specialised doctors, the appeal will also ensure there are more professionals in the region to identify and treat eye problems.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder & Chairperson, BRAC comments: “The Vision Bangladesh Appeal is an important opportunity for the British-Bangladeshcommunity in the UK to make a measured and lasting difference. The gift of sight is something so precious and with their help we can have a huge impact on lives of those living in poverty.”
A start up phase has already begun in the region and over 1,000 surgeries have been conducted and a further 970 people have been prescribed glasses to improve their vision.
Dr Wahidul Islam, Bangladesh Country Director for Sightsavers comments: “We are so excited to be working together with BRAC to tackle the huge task of eliminating avoidable blindness in Sylhet. Combining our expertise and resources is essential if we are to train more surgeons, build and equip new eye care centres and find those desperately in need of an sight restoring operations. The result will be a lasting impact for individuals, families and communities.”
The appeal will transform the lives of people like fifty year old Padma Kormi who was blind in both eyes with cataracts. Padma from the village of Mourapur in Sylhet had lost her job on the tea estates and became extremely poor and vulnerable. She was one of the first people to be treated by Vision Bangladesh. Now having had surgery Padma can see again and is very happy to be able to return to her job and be independent again.
More details of the Appeal, including a film can be found at [www.sightsavers.org/visionbangladesh]
For British-Bangladesh media, please contact Tanvir Ahmed, 44 (0) 7782 415491
Notes to Editors:
1. BRAC was founded by Fazle Hasan Abed in February 1972, soon after the liberation of Bangladesh and has grown to become one of the largest NGOs in the world employing more than 120,000 people, the majority of which are women, and reaching more than 110 million people in Asia and Africa.
2. BRAC achieves large scale, rapid change by working with individuals, families, communities, and institutions, to overcome poverty. Our approach is comprehensive – with financial services, capacity building and livelihood development as well as health, education and social justice – enabling people to realise their potential.
3. BRAC’s health programme in Bangladesh covers a population of 100 million people and operates through a network of 85,000 trained women community health volunteers who every month visit 11 million households providing essential health care.
4. BRAC UK was founded in 2006 to help mobilise support for BRAC’s international work (registered charity number 1115482).
5. Currently BRAC has country programmes in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda as providing technical assistance in Haiti, India, Indonesia, Sudan, and Yemen,
1. Sightsavers is a registered UK charity (Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110) that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people who are blind and visually impaired. www.sightsavers.org
2. There are 45 million blind people in the world; 75% of all blindness can be prevented or cured.
3. Every sixty seconds another child loses their sight; only 2% of children who are disabled in the developing world attend school
4. 2010 marks the 60th anniversary of Sightsavers, originally called the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, which was founded in 1950 by the late Sir John Wilson.
5. In the six decades since its foundation, Sightsavers has:
- Treated over 206.8 million people for blinding and potentially blinding conditions
- Carried out over 7.1 million operations to restore sight
- Trained almost 0.5 million primary eye care workers
- Carried out rehabilitation training to 91,000 people
6. Sightsavers has worked in Bangladesh since 1973 and last year treated over 873,057 people, including performing over 72,000 cataract operations and providing 167,000 people with spectacles