Initiated jointly in 2014 by the governments of Bangladesh and Korea, the project "Eye Health Promotion and Prevention of Avoidable Blindness in Selected Areas of Bangladesh", funded by the South Korean Government with a $9.4 million grant and implemented by the Korea International Cooperation Agency, revolutionises care services in the country by providing advanced treatment options to combat avoidable blindness.
According to statistics, avoidable blindness is one of the major public health problems in Bangladesh. Cataracts, which primarily affect men and women over the age of 40, are the cause of visual loss in 80% of blindness cases in Bangladesh, said a press release.
The number of adults in Bangladesh who are currently blind from cataract is estimated to be around 6,50,000. Assuming the incidence of blinding cataract cases to be one fifth of those already existing, a further 130 000 new cases are thought to develop annually.
Speaking as the chief guest at the handover ceremony, Health Minister Zahid Maleque stated that by bringing advanced eye care closer to the people, Bangladesh is taking proactive measures to tackle the challenges posed by preventable vision impairment.
"The establishment of these eye care facilities are identical with Bangladesh government's commitment to improving the quality of life for its citizens and ensuring accessible eye treatment for all."
The minister thanked the Korean government for ensuring these eye care facilities are strategically located to ensure accessibility for individuals seeking eye care services in these areas.
Park Young Sik, Korean ambassador to Bangladesh stated that the handover of this project comes at a very opportune time given the constant threat of avoidable blindness in Bangladesh.
He also underlined the priority of the health sector in Korea's development cooperation with Bangladesh. The Korean ambassador stated that the Bangladesh-Korea Friendship Hospital in Savar, which opened in 1998, has been offering affordable and quality health care and the hospital now also has a modern facility for eye care to strengthen the capacity of Bangladesh government in preventing avoidable blindness which makes Bangladesh a key signatory of Vision 2020, a global initiative to end preventable blindness.
Lee Yun Young, vice president of KOICA and a former Korean ambassador to Bangladesh stated that considering the potential of Korea's modern medical technology to make a significant impact on addressing the issue of avoidable blindness in Bangladesh through diagnostic equipment, surgical techniques, capacity building, public awareness campaign, KOICA stepped forward to implement this eye health promotion project which can serve tens of thousands of eye patients in coming years. He emphasised that the project produced qualified ophthalmologists, nurses and managers who can recognize eye diseases, conduct refraction, provide eyeglasses, and refer patients to eye hospitals for more complicated problems with advanced first-hand training in Korea and Bangladesh.
Speaking at the event, Ms. Nargis Khanam, Additional Secretary of Health Services Division said that the project's relevance has been multifold given the necessity to prepare and to respond to the persistent threat of avoidable blindness in Bangladesh.
Taeyoung Kim, Country Director of KOICA; Prof. Dr. Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, Director General of (DGHS) and high officials of Bangladesh and Korean government attended the handover ceremony.
KOICA, established by the Korean Foreign Ministry in 1991 for Official Development Assistance, has been implementing Korea's grant aid and technical cooperation to support socio-economic development in Bangladesh since 1993.