OBAT Canada | Orbis

OBAT Canada

With support from OBAT Canada, we are working with our partners to reduce preventable vision loss and blindness due to cataracts among Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh. In most cases, a cataract can be removed – and a person’s vision restored – with a simple, quick and inexpensive surgery.

Beginning in August 2017, Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have fled to Southern Bangladesh in huge numbers, joining hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people from previous waves of displacement. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there are nearly one million stateless Rohingya refugees now residing in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas in Cox’s Bazar District.

Understandably, the government, humanitarian agencies and international NGOs have focused on addressing urgent critical care needs, such as food, clean water, shelter and emergency medical care. As a result, access to even basic eye care was virtually non-existent in the camps until Orbis stepped in. Orbis currently manages the largest eye care program in Cox’s Bazar. Since February 2018, Orbis and our local partners have provided eye care services to the Rohingya population and the host community in Cox’s Bazar through fixed vision centre locations and community eye screening programs.

Restoration of Eyesight in Cox’s Bazar

With funding support from OBAT Canada in 2018, Orbis partnered with Cox’s Bazar Baitush Sharaf Hospital (CBBSH) to launch the Restoration of Eyesight in Cox’s Bazar project. The project focuses on providing critically needed cataract surgeries for the Rohingya populations living in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. Subsequent phases of the project followed in 2019 – 2022.

Phase IV of the project launched in January 2023 and will run until December 2025. The project will see Orbis International Bangladesh partner with CBBSH to deliver a series of eye screening and patient selection programs in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar District in Southern Bangladesh over the next three years. Approximately 12,000 people will be screened and assessed. A total of 3,000 Rohingya refugees will be selected and referred to CBBSH for final examination and fully subsidized cataract surgery.

As a key part of the project, Orbis and CBBSH will prioritize the selection of women for surgery. In many countries like Bangladesh, religious, cultural or traditional beliefs quite often prioritize the needs of men over those of women. This is only exacerbated in humanitarian or refugee settings where it can be even more difficult for women to access medical treatment.

To address this issue and help ensure equitable access for women, the screening team will carry out patient selection camps within the Rohingya communities, rather than in larger, central locations. This will provide access for women much closer to where they live. As well, the screening team will actively seek out and encourage women to attend the selection camps to be screened. To do this, the screening team will work closely with other NGOs who were already delivering programs for women in the camps. In addition, the screening team will engage religious leaders and mahjees to help encourage women to attend the screening camps. A majhee is a community leader, belonging to the Rohingya refugee population, who is responsible for approximately 100 families in a particular portion or block of a settlement.

Thanks to OBAT Canada, this project will help provide 3,000 sight-restoring surgeries for Rohingya refugees. While addressing conditions such as malnutrition and infectious disease remains the highest priority in the camps, this project illustrates how addressing non-life-threatening needs can help displaced communities to thrive, even under demanding conditions.

About OBAT Canada

OBAT Canada is a volunteer-based registered charity that embraces a holistic approach in supporting impoverished communities and individuals to break free of the poverty cycle. They support initiatives at home in Canada and in South Asia, where they are committed to providing aid, healthcare, education and economic empowerment to displaced and disadvantaged communities, including Rohingya refugees.

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