Qatar Creating Vision

Qatar Creating Vision is an eye health initiative funded by the Qatar Fund for Development and implemented by Orbis. In 2016, a four year programme was launched to reduce childhood blindness across India and Bangladesh, and was expanded to support refugees in Cox's Bazar. In 2022, phase two of the initiative was launched in Ethiopia

2016 - 2020

India and Bangladesh have some of the highest childhood blindness numbers in the world. Accessing treatment can be very expensive or may be too far away to reach. With 80% of a child’s learning processed through their vision, a lack of sight can mean a lack of education and missed opportunities. Promisingly, there is much that can be done – half of childhood blindness is preventable or treatable which means that vast numbers of children are suffering unnecessarily.

Our initial aim was to provide 5.5 million eye tests and treatments and we approached this in several ways.

Reach - Refractive Error Amongst Children

Thanks to the Qatar Fund for Development’s support, a brand new and far reaching school eye screening programme has been established in India through our network of partner hospitals. A bespoke software system was developed that logs each child whose sight is tested, records their treatment pathway and their follow up appointments. It can also be used as a research tool to assess the data collected to better plan programmes in the future and this system is paper free, saving trees as well as sight!

The REACH programme is comprehensive and offers a full service from screening, to spectacles, treatments or surgery. On a screening day, children with vision loss will be identified and should they require glasses, they receive a pair and can also choose which frame they like best. Should they require follow up with an ophthalmologist, their parents are informed, and an appointment organised.

By bringing eye care services to children at school, the hospitals that we partner with across the country have brought eye care services closer to home for those who needed it most, removing travel or cost barriers.

The programme also focused on compliance - children don’t always wish to wear their glasses. Our partners conducted surprise drop in session to see who is wearing their spectacles and eye health education is also top of the agenda.

Improving Eye Health Services

In Bangladesh, we opened the very first Retinopathy of Prematurity centre outside of the capital city of Dhaka. This disease affects premature babies, and if it is not picked up in time, can lead to a lifetime of darkness for the patient. Orbis has worked with our partner hospitals to educate doctors and nurses on how to reduce the risk of developing this disease, and by opening another site, more parents can now access the support of specially trained ophthalmologists.

Orbis’s volunteers have also worked with our partners to offer training to their doctors and nurses through hospital-based training programmes. Through hands on training, we have been able to expand the skills of their eye care teams, in order to treat more complicated conditions that come their way.

South East Bangladesh - Support for Refugees

In 2018, in response to the influx of people arriving across the border, we expanded Qatar Creating Vision to provide services to children and adults struggling with sight loss within the Rohingya and local host communities.

Thanks to Qatar Fund for Development, we established a permanent vision centre within the camp, and work with local hospitals and vision centres to deliver glasses and treatments to patients.

Demand for services has been extremely high . In almost three years, 210,000 screenings were provided to adults and children from both the Rohingya and local host population. Astonishingly, 40% of adults seeking services have required some form of treatment. As many refugees have had very little access to eye care before, a high volume of people has presented with advanced vision loss.

2022 And Beyond

From April 2022, the Qatar Creating Vision initiative has been active in Ethiopia. The work is tackling the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness, trachoma, whilst delivering over 300,000 services, including screenings, distributing antibiotics, providing spectacles, and conducting surgeries, to communities.

Trachoma is highly contagious, but it is easily preventable and treatable through the World Health organisation’s SAFE strategy: Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness, Environmental improvements. In rural Ethiopia, the burden of the disease remains high, as medical support can be hard to reach and through repeated episodes of the infection in adults, painful blinding trachoma (trichiasis) can develop.

To ensure the necessary human resources are in place, the programme will feature training for eye health personnel to identify and undertake surgery on those with blinding trachoma. Additionally, Orbis will conduct a survey, which will be essential to informing the necessary next steps to come one step closer to the eliminating trachoma.

The work being undertaken will also strengthen eye care facilities to provide patients with other sight loss issues, with the necessary eye care they deserve.

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