Eye Care Everywhere: Saving Senowara’s Sight

Orbis is renewing the commitment to safely bringing eye care everywhere in spite of pandemic-related challenges. This is especially critical in places where eye care is extremely scarce, like Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Saving Senowara’s Sight

Senowara’s future looked bleak. She suffered from deteriorating eyesight, which made many household tasks impossible. Frustrated by Senowara’s inability to take care of the household, her husband left her and her four children to fend for themselves. She was terrified—how would she make sure her son and three daughters were taken care of?

Then, along with nearly 900,000 fellow Rohingyas, she and her children were forced to leave home. Arriving at the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Senowara was almost blind.

Senowara was on the brink of blindness until Orbis gave her the hope she needed

“We didn’t have any earnings. We, the entire family, were fully dependent on relief from different local and international agencies. How could we expect eye treatment?” — Senowara

Then one day, Senowara heard a loudspeaker announcement inviting people to an Orbis eye screening camp. She felt a glimmer of hope as she went off to have her eyes checked. The Orbis team diagnosed the cause of Senowara's blindness -- cataracts -- and arranged for her to receive the sight-saving surgery she needed at a partner hospital in the local community.

A New Lease on Life

Thanks to our partnership with the Qatar Fund for Development and our generous supporters, Orbis was the first eye care organization to establish services in the Cox’s Bazar camps in 2018. Since then, we've worked with local partners to provide thousands of regular screenings and surgeries for the Rohingya population—and we haven’t let the pandemic stop us.

Because of the tenacity of Orbis supporters, Senowara’s vision is restored and she has a new lease on life. Now that she can see clearly, Senowara has quickly overcome many of the obstacles she thought she would live with forever.

We were the first eye care organization to establish eye care services in Cox's Bazar

Earlier this year, Senowara was able to give something back to her community by securing a role in infection control and prevention. Senowara takes great pride in her new job, she is even training others on the camp while addressing a critical need during the ongoing pandemic.

According to a new report by the World Health Organization, the number of COVID-19 cases in the camps has decreased in the past few weeks. While we’re hopeful this will continue, the dire public health situation has caused an irreversible ripple effect, putting even more stress on an already limited health care system.

Because of this, eye screening camps have become more essential than ever—something Senowara is especially grateful for!

Senowara received treatment from Orbis.

Senowara is delighted to have her sight back

“Now I see as I did in my childhood. It was beyond my expectation,” Senowara says.

With the income from her new job, Senowara was able to pay for one of her daughters to get married. Perhaps best of all, she now feels respected and treated with dignity. Even though she is the one who has had her sight saved, Senowara finally feels seen by others—something she hadn’t experienced for a long time.

“Many people used to ignore me when I was blind. Now the situation has totally changed,” Senowara says.

Fighting Blindness in Cox’s Bazar

The 36 temporary camps in Cox’s Bazar make up the world’s largest refugee settlement. For the Rohingyas who have been displaced from their homes like Senowara and her family, living in the camp’s basic shelters is incredibly difficult.

Even more, a new Orbis study shows that blindness is much more prevalent for the Rohingya population than the local residents, which means there is also an overwhelming need for eye care.

Because visual impairment is so common in the camps, families are in danger of experiencing preventable blindness—which could have devastating consequences.

For adults like Senowara, forgoing critical care threatens their ability to keep their jobs and take care of their families, contributing to a growing economic burden in the camps.

There is an overwhelming need for eye care in Cox's Bazar

Orbis Supporters Make Innovation Possible

In Cox’s Bazar, only one hospital serves nearly 900,000 Rohingya and 2.3 million Bangladeshi people, many of whom live in remote and low income areas. Because of new restrictions, sight-saving surgery for patients like Senowara now requires special permission from the government to safely transport patients to Cox’s Bazar Baitush Sharaf Hospital (CBBSH).

Like many places where Orbis works, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant delays and created new barriers to delivering sight-saving care.

With your help, we can provide quality eye care in the camps

But because of Orbis supporters, we’ve been able to work closely with CBBSH to adapt as new challenges arise. Together, we devised and implemented a new service delivery system and eye health awareness program, and trained the entire staff at the hospital on the new guidelines.

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