Backed by an Australian Government aid program, The Fred Hollows Foundation will redirect funds from a comprehensive eyecare project to supply five international hospitals with personal protective equipment (PPE) and increase health messaging amid COVID-19.
The foundation announced it had support from the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) – a partnership between the Australian Government and accredited Australian NGOs – to repurpose funding that will assist nearly 100 eyecare professionals in Bangladesh.
It is also anticipated to benefit 20,000 people in accessing eye health services and raise health awareness for more than 10,000 people.
The foundation’s Bangladesh country manager Dr Zareen Khair said the efforts would support COVID-19 activities across the country to supply five hospitals with PPE increase health messaging.
In Bangladesh, the foundation’s partner hospitals have limited their operating capacity and decided to only receive emergency cases, fearful of contracting the disease.
To ensure the eyecare services are continued, the Bangladesh team has sourced, distributed, and supplied additional PPEs to healthcare providers in Cox’s Bazar, Chandpur, Mymensingh, Khulna and Jashore.
Before the lockdown, the Mazharul Haque BNSB Eye Hospital, in Chandpur, averaged 700 patients per day in the base and vision centre. It experienced a 93% drop in eyecare visits, largely due to public fears of exposure to COVID-19.
After PPE supplies, the hospital increased its capacity and now eyecare workers are said to be less fearful of virus exposure. Now the average has increase from fewer than 50 in-person visits a day to 170.
In addition, the team launched a COVID-19 prevention awareness campaign in poor, remote and urban areas in Dhakka, home to the largest number of confirmed cases. The national mass campaign aims to help change people’s behaviour and raise their awareness about lockdown lifestyle, social distancing, hygiene, symptoms and helpline numbers.