Realising the paucity of ophthalmic services in the country and the necessity of more and urgent efforts in this sector, a group of ophthalmologist and social workers of Chittagong joined together and formed a voluntary organization named ‘Bangladesh National society for the Blind (BNSB)’ Chittagong – a community based non-government organization with the triple objectives of prevention, cure and rehabilitation of the blind & visually handicapped with an initial modest fund equivalent to US$ 100. Prof. Rabiul Husain, was the founder Honorary General Secretary of the society.
Within a year, the organization started its outreach activities by setting up a 40-Bed Eye Hospital with attached out patient department in a loaned space at Anderkilla, Chittagong City. The support of late Mr. Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury, the then minister of health & social welfare & including the over whelming support of the members of the community were instrumental in the creation of this service.
At its very inception, the organization gave importance to provide services to the rural areas through mobile outreach programmes. Keeping the hospital as its nucleus, it took up intensive programme of mobile eye camps to serve the underserved rural population who were needlessly blind for years together.
The inaugural mobile eye camp was held in 1973 at Cox’s Bazar, 150 km south of Chittagong. This drew the attention of the blind welfare workers at home and abroad. Late Sir John Wilson of U.K. and Mrs. Rosi Gollmann, the Founder President of Andheri-Hilfe e.V. of Germany extended their helping hands.
In order to detect and treat visual and other ocular defects of school going children at their early schooling, the Society’s School Eye Health Programme was launched in 1975 with the support from Andheri-Hilfe.
The society had two big events in 1979 –
i) The then President of the country laid down the foundation of Chittagong Eye Infirmary and Training Complex
A need was also felt for expansion of the eye care services to the underserved population across the country. With local initiatives and the support of Andheri-Hilfe, gradually 8 satellite eye care centres each of 30-50 bed capacity were set up at various strategic locations, namely at Dhaka, Khulna, Mymensingh, Dinajpur, Sirajgonj, Chandpur, Moulavibazar and last one at Patuakhali. Prof. Rabiul Husain was providing all technical support and guidance from its initiation till these centres became self-sustainable. Chittagong Eye Infirmary and Training Complex (CEITC) is now recognised as one of the major referral eye care and human resource development centre of the country.
To cope with the ever-expanding eye care activities throughout the country the need for trained ophthalmic manpower was felt urgently, accordingly the organization has taken up a number of human resource development programmes for doctors, nurses, paramedics, optometrists and other technical personnel.
In 1991, the establishment of the Institute of Community Ophthalmology, University of Chittagong at the CEITC Campus is a landmark achievement. The Institute offers 2 year long course in Community Ophthalmology leading to Diploma in Community Ophthalmology (DCO) to doctors and has, by now made a significant impact in the field of Community Ophthalmology.
Since 2018, admission has been going on for Masters in ophthalmology (M.S.) course at the institute in collaboration with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU). The institute is also running a 4 year long course in Bachelor of Optometry.