Rayner donates lenses to “boat of life” in Bangladesh

Posted on 1/01/2001

Rayner Intraocular Lenses Ltd of Hove, East Sussex is to donate an entire year’s supply of intraocular lenses to the floating hospital Jibon Tari in Bangladesh, announced Rayner Managing Director Donald Munro, whilst on a visit to that country in early January. Five hundred of the highest quality lenses will be sent entirely free of charge in the year 2001.

IMPACT Bangladesh is a charitable foundation that aims to prevent and treat avoidable disability. Its most ambitious project to date is the Jibon Tari, which holds clinics and carries out surgery on some of the world’s poorest people who live by the great rivers of Bangladesh. The floating hospital provides a free service to these patients who may otherwise have no access to a doctor.

“Rayner is proud to be supporting the Jibon Tari,” said Donald Munro, as he was shown round the pontoon vessel moored on the Jamuna river by Bhuapur. “Here is a good news story. Some of the world’s poorest people have had their sight restored with first class treatment and first class products. Most heartening is that it is not an alien concept or a foreign organisation working here but it is Bangladesh people themselves who are implementing the project. All the trustees, directors and management of the charity are from Bangladesh as are the crew of the ship: both the medical and administrative teams.” Since its launch in April 1999 doctors on the Jibon Tari have restored the sight of nearly 2,600 people who had been blinded by cataracts. Dr Munirul Huq, an eye surgeon in the capital Dhaka, explained, “Unlike Europe, in Bangladesh cataract is not just a disease that mainly affects the elderly. Its onset is much earlier, mainly in the 40 to 45 year age group. This means it has enormous economic impact on the lives of the people affected and their families.”

The government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is also showing support for this unique hospital. While in Dhaka, Donald Munro met with the Minister for Planning, Dr M. K. Alamgir. “I was impressed by the Minister’s support for this project” said Mr Munro. “I learned that Dr Alamgir has taken a personal interest in eye camps in various parts of Bangladesh. The government seem convinced of the economic as well as the humanitarian importance of restoring people’s sight. There is so much good work being done now in Bangladesh – not only at Jibon Tari but also in the splendid Chittagong Eye Infirmary run by Prof Rablul Husain and at many private and public hospitals in Dhaka.”

IMPACT UK – with headquarters in Haywards Heath, West Sussex – is a charity that was founded in 1985 by Sir John Wilson (himself blinded in childhood in an accident during a chemistry lesson) and now has foundations all over the world. Its ideal of eradicating needless disability among the world’s poor is being carried on by Claire Hicks, Sir John’s daughter, who is now Chief Executive. Of the Jibon Tari, she says, “We are delighted with Rayner’s generous gift. This is not the first time that IMPACT has received help from Rayner – over the last 2 years the company has donated 700 lenses for projects in Nepal and The Philippines as well as Bangladesh. Mr Munro took 70 more lenses with him on his visit to Bangladesh for immediate use on board the Jibon Tari.”

Rayner’s donation of sight saving IOLs will be made to IMPACT Foundation Bangladesh for use on their floating hospital, the Jibon Tari (which translates as ‘Boat of Life’). The Jibon Tari offers clinical and surgical treatment free, or for a token fee, to all people who ask and are assessed as being suitable for the treatments provided. It concentrates on ophthalmic, ENT and orthopaedic surgery, restoring sight, hearing and mobility to thousands every year and offers treatment and health education for the prevention of disability to many more. Mr Monsur Ahmed Choudhuri (who is blind himself), Director and Trustee of IMPACT Foundation Bangladesh, commented on the importance of Rayner’s support. “These IOLs are implanted among the poorer patients who visit the Jibon Tari suffering from cataract. Rayner’s generous support is most remarkable and IMPACT Bangladesh expresses its deep gratitude”. The reality is that some who visit the hospital cannot be treated with an IOL and priority has to be given to younger people who are economically active, particularly women who are employed in the garment industry or those who are literate and need to be able to continue to read and write in their jobs.

Rayner, a British company, made the world’s first IOL fifty-one years ago for the pioneering British eye surgeon Sir Harold Ridley. The IOL is now standard treatment for cataracts, helping an estimated five million sufferers to see again each year. Sir Harold was knighted for his achievements in the 2000 New Year Honours list.

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