To determine the prevalence and causes of blindness, vision impairment and cataract surgery coverage among Rohingya refugees aged ≥ 50 years residing in camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
We used the Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) methodology to select 76 clusters of 50 participants aged ≥ 50 years with probability proportionate to size. Demographic and cataract surgery data were collected using questionnaires, visual acuity was assessed per World Health Organization criteria and examinations were conducted by torch, and with direct ophthalmoscopy in eyes with pinhole-corrected vision <6/12. RAAB software was used for data entry and analysis.
We examined 3,629 of 3800 selected persons (95.5%). Age and sex adjusted prevalence of blindness (3/60 to ≤6/60), moderate visual impairment (MVI; >6/60 to ≤6/18), and early visual impairment (EVI; >6/18 to ≤6/12) were 2.14%, 2.35%, 9.68% and 14.7% respectively. Cataract was responsible for 75.0% of blindness and 75.8% of SVI, while refractive error caused 47.9% and 90.9% of MVI and EVI respectively. Most vision loss (95.9%) was avoidable. Cataract surgical coverage among the blind was 81.2%. Refractive error was detected in 17.1% (n = 622) of participants and 95.2% (n = 592) of these did not have spectacles. In the full Rohingya cohort of 76,692, approximately 10,000 surgeries are needed to correct all eyes impaired (<6/18) by cataract, 12,000 need distance glasses and 73,000 require presbyopic correction.
The prevalence of blindness was lower than expected for a displaced population, in part due to few Rohingya being ≥60 years and the camp’s good access to cataract surgery. We suggest the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees include eye care among recommended health services for all refugees with long-term displacement.