Through the USAID Advancing Universal Health Coverage (AUHC) activity, Chemonics is making health services, including vision care, more accessible in Bangladesh.
Rowshan Akter long earned her living counting shrimp larvae on the bank of the Shongko River near her house in Bangladesh’s southeastern Chattogram District, in Juidondi village. As she grew older, and after years of straining her eyes to count the larvae, which are about the length of a staple, Rowshan increasingly struggled to see. Her near-sightedness began to impact her ability to carry out her job, but she could not afford to take time off to travel two hours to the nearest clinic, pay for the services, or make another trip to pick up her new glasses.
Thousands of rural dwellers like Rowshan need health services, including vision care, but face barriers to access in Bangladesh. According to the 2020 Nationwide Blindness Survey conducted by the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, in Bangladesh, 19% of adults suffer from visual impairment and only 7% have regular access to visual treatment. Chemonics implements the USAID Advancing Universal Health Coverage (AUHC) activity, which has helped the Government of Bangladesh provide health services to Bangladeshis since 2017, focusing on the most under-served. AUHC supports the Surjer Hashi Network (SHN), a centrally managed, sustainable, private social enterprise that provides millions of people with high-quality, affordable primary care services, including eye care and vision services, through 134 clinics across the country.
Sixty percent of Bangladeshis live in rural areas, but most eye care services are in urban areas and are costly compared to other health services. Additionally, receiving eyeglasses is a lengthy process. To expand vision care services in rural areas, the AUHC activity facilitated a partnership between SHN and DOT Glasses, a Czech company that provides low-cost vision care for underprivileged communities by using vision tests and patented one-size-fits-all eyeglasses. In February 2022, AUHC collaborated with SHN and DOT Glasses to pilot vision care services in five remote SHN clinics and trained community clinic paramedics, health workers, and clinic managers to test the rural pilot.
The day she heard about the opportunity, Rowshan visited her local SHN clinic to learn about DOT glasses. Rowshan completed the free vision test and received her glasses within just 30 minutes. The glasses truly transformed her life— Rowshan can now see clearly again, which improved her confidence and made her more productive at work.