Sight Savers International

Sight Savers International a non-government organisation having the objective to prevent and cure blindness in the most underprivileged countries, principally in the Commonwealth. Besides, it supports educational services for visually impaired children, and rehabilitation services for blind adults. Sight Savers International having its legal name as Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind is incorporated under Royal Charter in the United Kingdom as a charity. It uses Sight Savers International (SSI) as its descriptive name when seeking support from donors and when undertaking project work overseas. SSI achieves its objectives by working with partners who are capable of delivering high quality programmes to the poor communities in a cost-effective manner. This includes private (non-profit) hospitals, local charitable organisations, government bodies, organisations of and for the blind, and religious organisations. SSI is currently working in more than 20 developing countries. It is in official relations with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and coordinates its activities closely with both the WHO Prevention of Blindness Programme and other international organisations with similar objectives.

During last 26 years, Sight Savers has helped developing a nation-wide eye care service delivery network in Bangladesh. The recipients of Sight Savers supports in the form of direct grants and equipment were Bangladesh National Society for the Blind (BNSB), Ophthalmological Society of Bangladesh (OSB), Lions, Rotary, and other service clubs.

Sight Savers replaced the eye camp programme with Modular Eye Care (MEC) in 1994. MEC is a comprehensive eye care programme, which integrates preventive and curative modules of services in order to permit delivery of eye care services from a single programme. Sight Savers has established partnership with 7 national NGOs in Bangladesh to run this programme. MEC is a district focus programme and offers services from a centrally located 50-bedded eye hospital in the programme district. All the hospitals offer ophthalmic surgeries including IOL implantation. Other components of services are clustered in the form of various modules around each base hospital. Each project has four satellite centres with 50-80 km radius from the hospital. These centres run eye clinics, Under-5 clinics and community eye care activities. Community eye care activities as part of primary eye care works include: awareness building on eye care practices; school sight testing; patient screening programme (PSP) for eye treatment at rural sites, and screening cataract patients for referral; and free transportation of referred patients to and from base hospital for surgeries. This programme assures quality of surgery using developed surgical procedure and post-operative follow-ups.

Sight Savers provided technical and funding support to various ophthalmic staff training courses run by Chittagong Eye Infirmary and Training Centre (CEITC) of Bangladesh National Society for the Blind- Chittagong till 1994. Under this programme Sight Savers has assisted 63 doctors, 122 paramedics and 28 ophthalmic assistants till 1994.

Sight Savers supported the IOL Microsurgery Training Course for the first time in Bangladesh in partnership with MA Institute of Ophthalmology and Islamia Eye Hospital in 1997. Aravind Eye Hospital, one of the partners of Sight Savers in India, provided technical support including training of faculty members and curriculum development. This programme has the capacity to train over 16 IOL surgeons in a year. Since inception, the programme trained over 20 IOL surgeons till March 1999.

Sight Savers has recently launched the Eye Care pilot project in partnership with Bangladesh National Council for the Blind (BNCB) under the Ministry of Health. The lessons learned in this project will help developing national eye care policies and strategies for future programme development.

Sight Savers has taken a crash programme to reduce cataract backlog in 19 upazilas under Sylhet, Sunamganj, and Hobiganj districts from 1999. SSI pioneered in implementing the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) in Bangladesh in partnership with Assistance for Blind Children (ABC) and subsequently extended partnership with other NGOs. For education of the blind, monthly stipends were provided through BNSB and ABC to the blind students in different schools, colleges and universities. Over 1,500 students received stipends from 1977 to 1989. [M Jalaluddin]