Rohingya children in a refugee camp in Bangladesh wait to be screened

Delivering eye care to Rohingya people in Bangladesh

Since February 2018, Orbis has been screening and treating Rohingya people in South East Bangladesh as the first eye care organisation to establish services within the camps.

A young Rohingya boy has his eyes screened by an Orbis eye care worker

A young boy gets his eye screened by an Orbis eye care worker

Between February-April 2018, Orbis conducted nearly 5,000 screenings and 2,763 treatments, a treatment rate of more than 50%.

So far 159 cataract surgeries have been delivered – almost three times as many as expected. Most are severe cases as the majority of Rohingya people have never had access to eye care. Other treatment includes antibiotics for infection and the provision of glasses.

Orbis' work in the camps shows that an already vulnerable population is in need of more support than we envisaged. Low vision means they will be less able to look after themselves and their dependants with flooding, cyclones and landslides becoming real threats as monsoon season approaches. Relatively straightforward interventions such as surgery, antibiotics and glasses can transform the lives of Rohingya people, leading to greater independence and self-sufficiency in the harsh environment of a refugee camp.

Rebecca Cronin

Chief Executive of Orbis UK

This project is funded by The Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD), which has supported our work in Bangladesh since 2015. The QFFD approached us with a request to develop a programme helping those struggling with vision loss within the relief camps and the local community. 

We're working closely with Cox’s Bazar Baitush Sharaf Hospital, NGOs, and the local government to provide as much assistance to the Rohingya population as possible. The screening centre is located next to a food distribution point, to help with awareness of the service. 

Rohingya people queue outside the Orbis screening centre in Bangladesh

Queues outside the Orbis screening centre

Alongside the medical treatment programme, we are training 44 community leaders; Majhee, Imams, school teachers and social workers, to conduct basic eye tests, spot eye conditions and refer people to the screening centre. 

Orbis is collaborating with local partners to provide eye screenings to children within designated 'safe places' where children are encouraged to learn and play. 

A Rohingya elder discusses his eye problems with an Orbis staff member at a screening in Bangladesh

An elder discusses his eye problems with an Orbis staff member

Orbis is also recording and capturing valuable data to help understand the people and the eye problems they are suffering from whilst continuing to screen and treat as many Rohingya as possible. 

This will enable Orbis and its partner to deliver better care to those in need. 

Most of us are really lucky to have ready access to eye care. The Rohingya people have experienced terrible suffering and require extensive medical care, which has not been easily accessible to them.

Rebecca Cronin

Chief Executive of Orbis UK