Surgeries rise in eastern Bangladesh

Surgical training provided by The Fred Hollows Foundation has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of people having their sight restored in the district of Brahmanbaria, Bangladesh.

Dr Yeamli Khan and his medical team at Brahmanbaria District Hospital struggled for years to get their surgical rate to 100 per year. In 2001, they performed 36 surgeries. Three years later this figure had risen to 96 and finally, by 2007, they achieved 168 sight-restoring operations.

But with a population of over 2.3 million people in the district and approximately 8,000 people suffering from cataract blindness, these surgical rates had little impact on the backlog of patients requiring treatment.

That is why, in 2007, The Foundation sent Dr Khan to the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Nepal for training in the latest cataract surgery techniques. This experience improved his surgical skills, allowing him to perform operations faster than before. In addition, The Foundation has delivered the medical equipment and consumables such as intraocular lenses that are needed for him to carry out high volume surgery.

Dr Khan believes that this training revolutionised eye health in Brahmanbaria.

“The year before I received training through The Fred Hollows Foundation, my staff and I completed 168 cataract surgeries," he says.

“The year after my training, we conducted 960 surgeries! So in the space of one year we increased our sight restoring operations by almost 600% and the only difference was the training and equipment we received from The Foundation.”

Dr Khan is so enthusiastic about The Foundation’s impact in Bangladesh that he regularly uses his own personal leave to travel to other districts to help train ophthalmologists in the techniques he has learnt.

“The way I see it is there are approximately 750,000 people blind in Bangladesh. In my district we have lifted our surgery rate up from 100 to 1000. If I can help The Fred Hollows Foundation lift surgical rates across all of the 64 districts in Bangladesh to similar levels, then as a country we will perform around 64,000 operations a year," he says.

“The Foundation has therefore given me hope that we can eliminate avoidable blindness in Bangladesh.”

Brahmanbaria District is one of seven places where The Foundation is working in Bangladesh. In 2012, The Foundation will increase this support to a further seven districts.

The Foundation is working closely with the government of Bangladesh to eliminate avoidable blindness and establish long-term eye health services. Training is an important component of this work. Last year, in Bangladesh, The Foundation trained six ophthalmologists, 19 nurses and clinic support staff and 507 community health workers.

Learn more about the Bangladesh program.
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