Right now, our Helen Keller Intl Bangladesh leaders are working to build awareness and action against blindness from diabetes. 382 million people worldwide have diabetes and 80% of them are living in the developing world, with blindness being just one of its potential threats. In Bangladesh, the diabetic population is expected to exceed 11 million people by 2030, all of whom are at risk for blindness. A large contributing factor to diabetes in Bangladesh is the burden of malnutrition. There are a great number of both overweight and underweight citizens, both being due to a lack of proper nutrition. As a result, diabetes and other major health issues affect the population of Bangladesh in large numbers. While blindness from diabetes is preventable, there are several challenges that have hindered beating blindness from diabetes in Bangladesh, including antiquated healthcare practices and lack of awareness.
Ten percent of Bangladesh’s population has diabetes, a number that is constantly growing with the continuing lack of proper healthcare and nutrition throughout the country. Helen Keller International, being the first NGO to address blindness from diabetes in Bangladesh, has developed programs that provide diabetes patients with education on blindness prevention, manage quality control of screening operators in hospitals, direct patients with diabetes for screenings, and have established the only digital tracking system for tracking blindness from diabetes in Bangladesh for government hospitals. HKI screens about 1,000 patients each month for blindness from diabetes at just one public hospital in Bangladesh, and we are looking to expand that number. We are working with the government of Bangladesh to build a foundation for a national screening program for blindness from diabetes, taking after a program that already exists in the UK. We are also working with NIO to host a symposium to raise awareness about the issue.