The Symbiosis Primary Eye Care Service (SPECS) has been working to improve eye health outcomes in Bangladesh since 2006.

The aim of SPECS is to improve eye health throughout the Symbiosis working area, particularly for people living in remote rural locations where there is little access to eye care.

SPECS Eye Health and Education

A key aspect of the project is preventative health, with eye health lessons provided to around 2000 Symbiosis group members each year.

Through clinics in Modhupur and Birtara as well as mobile services, around 8000 people have their eyes tested each year. Where needed, low-cost spectacles are provided, with simple lens grinding and fitting by SPECS staff.

SPECS also visits primary schools, screening the vision of around 2500 children annually to ensure vision problems are corrected early.  Children requiring further treatment are referred to either a SPECS clinic or an eye hospital.

Selected teachers are also invited to attend day-long training sessions, where they are taught about common eye conditions affecting children, how to measure vision and how and when to refer children to the SPECS clinics.

Similar training sessions are also conducted with Symbiosis fieldworkers and community leaders.

SPECS Vision Centres

In June 2019 the first of two new SPECS Vision Centres opened in the town of Haluaghat in northern Bangladesh. These centres are being established in partnership with Operation Eyesight and will be the first of their kind in Bangladesh.

The new SPECS Visions Centres will provide comprehensive eye testing for all patients. This ensures they are not only treated for the problem they initially present with, but their overall eye health is checked and any significant issues identified. Treatment can then either be provided directly, or patients referred to a regional eye hospital.

Under the Operation Eyesight model it is anticipated these new SPECS Vision Centres will become financially self-sustainable, utilising income from fee-paying patients to supplement low-cost services to the poor.

SPECS Village Vision

In Bangladesh, as in other developing countries, the leading cause of preventable blindness is cataract. In addition to the other activities of the project, the SPECS team oversees the delivery of Symbiosis’ long-running cataract treatment program.

In partnership with ophthalmologists from the Mymensingh BNSB eye hospital, the mobile team organises Village Vision projects in remote rural areas. These provide eye check-ups to more than 1000 people annually, making referrals where necessary and identifying people with bilateral blindness due to cataract.

Following the screening day, SPECS staff arrange transport for the cataract patients to and from the eye hospital where their cataracts are removed. In this way around 100 people per year are provided with sight-restoring surgery.

Comprehensive Testing for Earlier Intervention

Shamsuddin is 55 years old.  He recently came to the SPECS Clinic frustrated that even with his glasses on, he was unable to see clearly. During his eye test, his prescription was found to have changed significantly.

Previously, he would have simply received new glasses and be sent on his way.  However, with the shift to comprehensive testing, his eyes received a full check-up.  During this assessment, he was found to have advanced glaucoma, which if left untreated, would have resulted in him going blind within a few years.  Shamsuddin will now be able to receive treatment that will preserve his vision for much longer.

The new SPECS Visions Centres will provide patients with a comprehensive eye check to enable early intervention in more significant eye health issues like Shamsuddin’s.

The simplest intervention can mean so much

Ten-year-old Ramim, arrived at a Symbiosis Village Vision Eye Camp, complaining of very itchy eyes.  The refractionist prescribed appropriate eye-drops, and strict instructions to stop playing in the Madrassa pond. He’ll now need to bathe at the village water pump.

Ramim’s Mum was widowed a year earlier and is not yet a member of a Symbiosis group. For now, she is doing all she can to provide for her five children.  She is grateful for the help of the SPECS team who come out to their rural community.

Ramim is one of over 28,000 children who have been helped through the Symbiosis Eye Health Project.