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Project report

Restore Sight to Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Bangladesh , RUN BY: The Fred Hollows Foundation | STATUS: COMPLETED

This project is 100% Funded



AUD 20,021

Raised from 6,158 people

Project Background

In 2018, The Fred Hollows Foundation expanded their work in Bangladesh to address the significant and urgent eye health need among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Of the estimated 700,000 Rohingya people who have been forced to flee their homes in northern Myanmar to escape brutal persecution and genocide, it is estimated that 50,000 people are in urgent need of cataract surgery.

Project Activities

To address this, The Foundation has commenced screening inside the refugee camps outside Cox’s Bazar, through existing health clinics and maternal centres. 

The only eye hospital in Cox’s Bazar, Baitush Sharaf Eye Hospital, is unable to cope with the influx of new patients, as they were already stretched addressing the eye health needs of the existing population. 

For this reason, The Fred Hollows Foundation has trained more local health professionals and surgeons, to support the existing eye health team on the ground and ramp up eye health services. 

The Foundation is also ensuring that the infrastructure, equipment, and consumables are adequate to address the additional eye health needs. 

Thanks to your contribution of $20,000 in 2018, The Fred Hollows Foundation was able to achieve the following outputs in Bangladesh: 

  • Screen 1,700 Rohingya refugees, and 
  • Perform 300 cataract surgeries for Rohingya refugees. 

Case study: Shamsun

Shamsun tugs at the arm of a Fred Hollows Foundation worker, trying to tell her story.

She is one of almost 700,000 Rohingya refugees who has fled Myanmar since August in 2017 and arrived at the overcrowded camps in Bangladesh with just the clothes on her back.

But Shamsun’s is particularly devastating. Blind with bilateral cataract, she could only hear as her husband was shot dead and five of her children were killed with machetes. One of the girls was raped before being murdered. Their bodies were burnt to destroy the evidence.

Her neighbours confirmed to her what her eyes couldn’t: her family was gone.

With the help of her son-in-law and other villagers, she escaped and spent four days in the jungle and hills, and across the river before finally making it to the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh.

Shamsun is just one of many blind Rohingya who miraculously made the harrowing journey to safety.

Baitush Sharaf is the only eye hospital at Cox’s Bazaar. Before the refugees came they were doing 400 to 500 cataract surgeries a month and 25 remote eye camps for Bangladeshi patients.

The 50 bed hospital serves a population of 2.5 million people. Demand is already too high. But now they suspect about 50,000 refugees need cataract surgery. The two surgeons will need to double or triple their number of operations if there is any hope of addressing the need.

For Shamsun it’s hard to imagine there’s anything to smile about – displaced from your home and with most of your family killed.

But when the patches come off the morning after her surgery Shamsun is happy to see again. She smiles at the nurse and clasps her hands in thanks.

What Next?

In 2019, The Fred Hollows Foundation will continue working to address the eye health need among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

This work will focus on screening inside the refugee camps, and sight restoring eye surgery at the nearby eye hospital, Baitush Sharaf.

The proposed outputs for 2019 include: 

  • Screen 18,500 people;
  • Perform 1,500 cataract surgeries; and
  • Complete renovations and provide equipment for Baitush Sharaf eye hospital.

Can I Visit This Project?

Interested donors should contact The Foundation.

How was it this funded?

Thanks to hundreds of tiny donations from these online businesses and their customers.

World Nomads USA
World Nomads Canada
***World Nomads UK
Travel Insurance Direct AU
Travel Insurance Direct NZ
World Nomads Australia
World Nomads NZ
***WorldNomads Europe old
***WorldNomads Global
World Nomads UK
World Nomads Global
The Fred Hollows Foundation

The Fred Hollows Foundation is an international development organisation working towards eliminating avoidable blindness and improving Indigenous Australian health. We are inspired by Professor Fred Hollows, a humanitarian, eye surgeon and social activist. Established in 1992, The Foundation continues in Fred’s footsteps and now works in more than 25 countries around the world and here in Australia. Working with in-country partners, we perform surgeries, deliver local training, provide equipment, educate about eye health and advocate for change.