Vienna Eye Care Partners




The 3rd Eye Camp of the Vienna Eye Care Partners (VECP) took place in Faridpur, Bangladesh, from February 2nd to 17th, 2013. A number of preparations were necessary: two slit lamps were serviced and dispatched, seen through customs by our Bengali partner Shamim Haque and taken to Faridpur. We transported material, lenses, surgical instruments and Phako machine to Dhaka, partly as excess luggage, partly as heavy hand luggage. In Dubai we met up with the Plastic Surgery Camps team, who operated on children with cleft lip – jaw –palate and burns for the 11th time in Faridpur. The local organisation was provided by the Faridpur Welfare Foundation under the leadership of Shamim Haque ( Members of the Vienna Eye Care Partners (VECP) are the two eye surgeons and ophthalmologists Dr. Alex Salomon and Dr. Ingrid Kraupp, and Mag. Elisabeth Micka, who is responsible for the organisation ( The Dutch Plastic Surgery group consists of the plastic surgeons Dr.Cees Spronk, Prof. Dr. Paul Spauwen and Dr. Chantal Moues, the Dr. Rob Niemeyer, Geke Hoeksema, assistant anesthesiologist. Neeltje Spronk is responsible for the children’s home.

After landing in Dhaka we – and our 20 suitcases and boxes - were taken to Faridpur on a school bus, which made the journey quite interesting. The distance is not great, but the journey takes a long time. The dust, the many people, the heat, the overcrowded ferry made it easy for us to adapt quickly. We were pleased to be accommodated in a pleasant guesthouse, with a fair chance of running water (even warm) and the opportunity to sit together outside in the evening. There was also our proven and tested cook.

The first day is always full of suspense. The first thing to do was unpacking the boxes and assembling the slit lamps – which Alex managed wonderfully. This time we were in a different new hospital, so also the newly delivered microscope for the operations had to be checked. And all this was happening under the pressure of the 915 blind or severely visually impaired patients gathered in front of the hospital, who wanted to be examined and operated on as soon as possible. Regarding their temperaments Bengali people are different from us: pushing and fighting noisily for a place is the rule.

The local eye specialists, who we got to know that morning. carried out the first check. Dr. Enamul Haque, the local eye surgeon worked his way through the crowd of pushing patients.

The selection of the patients also started on the upper floor. Ingrid und Alex had brought number bands along, which proved their worth throughout the whole camp, because the patients’ names are similar, the script difficult to read for us and identification had proved difficult in the last two years. Poverty is huge and being blind in a country like Bangladesh is a plight. The family are responsible for the care, so in case of great poverty the role of the unnecessary eater is easily obtained. The decision was clear: ‘first eyes’ would be operated on, because it is more important to see in one eye than have slightly improved eyesight in two eyes.

All surgeries which could be carried out with our portable Phako machine were listed and also the ECCEs (manual surgery) in case of completely calloused lenses. By mutual consent Dr. Haque undertook the ECCEs and Dr. Salomon and Dr. Kraupp the Phakos. Additionally, Dr. Haque was very interested in learning Phako and there was an initial training in the course of the Eye Camp. All three eye surgeons worked on a complimentary basis at the Eye Camp – a very special cooperation for a project like that.

It did not take long to solve the logistic problems of the outpatients’ ward: Zahidul Islam, our familiar manager, did the translation work and listed the patients, Dr.Rontu kept contact with the hospital, which nearly got our of joint due to the rush. After a few hours it went smoothly: 269 patients were examined by Alex and Ingrid, eye pressure was measured, and eventually 74 operated on by Phako. The suitable lense was calculated and measured and implanted. The 112 ECCE-surgery patients were closely checked by our eye surgeons to eliminate risks. All this took place in accordance with Dr. Haque, who asked for post-surgical checks in some cases.

Post- surgically all patients were checked, treated and received medicine for after-care, and also sunglasses, which are desirable in the prevailing climate. There were no complications, regrettably two of the patients were not able to see after the operations. In one case the reason was a glaucoma hidden behind the lense, and the other one a cornea problem. Neither problem could be identified before the surgery.

Some last year patients also came for a check-up – which made the last workday very turbulent for Ingrid and Alex.

The situation in Faridpur also proved quite turbulent: The hospital in situated in the centre of the town and political unrest wafted in through the windows – chants, demonstrations, unruly mob made us uncannily feel the political tensions. The issue was the conviction of a general, who had been responsible for the 1971 murders. We also noticed the temperamental prelude to the elections due at the end of this year. Our guesthouse was guarded throughout our stay.

The days remained turbulent: setting up a proper schedule for the operation theatre was an absolute stunt. Nevertheless, Ingrid succeeded again and again (patients come on the day when the have the opportunity to come, when they get a lift, or whenever they feel like it). Alex accomplished the second big feat, when both the Phako machine and the footpedal of the microscope gave up because of the heavy water load in the operating theatre: a call to Switzerland, check of Phako, re-programming, diagnosing the footpedal as source of trouble, stopping of surgery. Looking for an original screwdriver Philips nr 2 on the local market, finding it, opening footpedal, finding moisture, extensive drying with Ingrid’s hairdryer, screwing in place, working! The same procedure on the following day, but it was possible to continue work.

Also during the following surgery days the tension was high as nothing should go wrong during surgery. Exhaustion struck. Although our only day off (Friday) was relaxing, it was still fully planned: a wonderfully relaxing boat trip on the river Padma, an elaborate dancing performance of the children from our children’s home. The only thing we missed was a little bit of spare time.

Pressure sometimes builds up: the ever necessary improvising, the – to our mind – confusing organisation, the noise and the dust. The counterpart are the people, who look forward to our coming, who do everything to make things easier, who work day and night: the surgical nurses Shirin, Topoti and Polly and others, Zahid and his untiring efforts, and Shamim, who paves the way.

In between a ’Scientific Meeting’ for 300 local doctors and students. Ingrid gave a paper on ’Visual impairment: surgery is not always the solution’. The plastic surgeons also gave papers and operated on 191 patients during the time.

We had the great pleasure of participating in an impressive and noisy Hindu festival with dancing on a stage.

The closing ceremony was conducted by Minister Hossain (Minister of Welfare and Overseas Employment), a warm-hearted man with a lot of commitment for his people. Shamim Haque at his side thanked everybody. And, naturally, there were quite a number of other speakers, as usual in Bangladesh.

And then back to Dhaka, dinner with Shamim, a trip to Gulshan Market, and in the evening, tired, onto the plane to Dubai, where the two teams went their separate ways.

February 2013

Mag. Elisabeth Spauwen-Micka

President VECP

Table Diagnostics und Surgery

FREE EYE CAMP 2013, February 4th to February 15th


  Number of Actions Dr. Enamul Haque Local eye doctors Dr. Alex Salomon Dr. Ingrid Kraupp
First Consults 914 855 59
Second consults 280   280
Eye diagnosis/ measurement 269   269
Phaco-operations 74 1 73
ECCE operations 112 111 1
Postoperative Consults 79   79
Postoperative Controls 49   49
Total actions/ interventions 1777 967 810

Eye Camp February 2014, Faridpur/Bangladesh

“… without eyesight, you are useless, you are a burden and an unnecessary eater for the family…” (patient Eye Camp)

Report: Elisabeth Spauwen-Micka

The 4th Eye Camp took place in Faridpur between February 7th and 21nd. For the second time we were guests at the Islamic Bank Hospital. The target group of the Eye Camp are poor, visually handicapped people who do not have the financial means to afford an operation.

The Austrian-Bengali cooperation between Mr. Shamim Haque, president of the Faridpur Welfare Foundation, and VECP, Vienna Eye Care Partners needs special mentioning: Shanim Haque invites the Austrian team, organises the camp and sees to it that we have a hospital including staff at our disposal, looks after our accommodation and well-being. The VECP doctors work in an honorary capacity. VECP covers the travel costs and, during the last years, material and equipment (microscope, split lamp) and also the transport of equipment, pharmaceuticals and lenses. Many thanks to our sponsors, who are listed on this website!

Our thanks also go to Ali Asgor Manik, secretary of the Faridpur Welfare Foundation.

The Austrian team consisted of:

Dr. Alex Salomon, Dr. Michael Marek, eye specialists and eye surgeons, Elisabeth Spauwen-Micka, logistics and organisation.

On the Bengali side the team consisted of:

Dr. Kamsul Hasan, eye surgeon, Dr. Mesgahul Rontu, organiser and contact person, and Zahidul Islam, interpreter and patient manager. Other than those mentioned, there are all the people who assisted in the operations: the doctors of the pre-selection, surgical nurses, hospital staff and others. There is no lack of helpfulness and willingness to learn on the Bengali side.

Prof. Dr. Paul Spauwen (member of the VECP Board), who has been carrying out surgical operations in Faridpur for 12 years, also assisted us.

In 2014 the organisation of the Eye Camp was marked by a number of problems: due to political unrest after the January election it was uncertain for a long time whether it would be possible to carry out the camp at all. The organisation could only start two weeks before the start, both on the Austrian and the Bengali side.

In spite of this initial position the 2014 Eye Camp was a success.

1500 patients found the way to the hospital on the first day. The rush was enormous and asked too much of our small organisation. Nevertheless, all of them were roughly checked by local doctors. From these 1500 patients the indication was 268 cataract operations.

Dr. Alex Salomon and Dr. Michael Marek first checked the ocular pressure of the patients indicated by the local doctors, then examined them with our slit lamps, afterwards the patients were given numbers, the strength of the lens was determined and the date of the operation fixed on the status form. The complexity of the procedure is considerable: both language and script are incomprehensible to us, hardly anybody speaks English. Nothing can be achieved without an interpreter, which also very often means a delay during examinations and operations.

Nevertheless we can be proud of our results:

177 patients were operated on
54 Phako-poperations
123 ECCE operations

There was one complication. We are in permanent contact with the local organisation so as to be able to identify possible future problems and to help solve them.

In cooperation with our Bengali partners it is possible to improve a number of things, year by year, camp by camp: the aim is to return both eyesight and self-esteem to the patients.

Political unrest: Eye-project 2015 cancelled

End of February 2015 we passed on the following information to our friends and sponsors:

“….we regret having to inform you that our journey to Bangladesh, scheduled for February 6 to 20, had to be cancelled. The political situation in Bangladesh is precarious, the Foreign Office issued a travel-warning and our Bengali partners do not feel up to carrying the risk of our surgical and eye camps. They are expecting a military coup before long. The risk – road blocks, demonstrations, strikes etc. – is not so much ours, because we are moving in a protected convoy, but our patients’ problem, who have to travel for days to come to the camp to be operated on. Their safety is at risk.

It is the first time that we have cancelled a journey to Faridpur. Our disappointment is immense. We had to postpone many operations last year because the demand was too big, as usual. Now, those patients’ expectations will not be fulfilled.
We are hoping for Bangladesh that the situation will ease off. At the moment there is an information blockade for Google Alert, which is not a good sign.
As soon as the situation has calmed down, we will go on planning and organising the next mission. The date is already fixed: February 6 to 20. 2016….”