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Sight is a blessing that is often taken for granted. For 26 million Pakistanis, the ability to see is an impossible feat. To many suffering from preventable forms of blindness, access to state-of-the-art healthcare is a rarity. With economic anxiety plaguing the nation, there is almost no question as to whether a person should opt to pay for eye surgery as opposed to feeding their family for a single day.

Underprivileged children with eye-related diseases rarely attend school, let alone gain higher education. With many families living so close to the poverty line, each member of the household must earn. As a result, many young Pakistanis are never diagnosed with prenatal eye issues, nor do they have the means to seek treatment.

The Layton Rahmatulla Benevolent Trust (LRBT) is the largest provider of eye care in Pakistan. What began as a humble mobile unit in 1985 is now an impressive network of 19 hospitals and 54 clinics across Pakistan. LRBT began as a means for Sir Graham Layton and Zaka Rahmatulla to give back to the country. Rahmatulla, who suffered from poor vision, was acutely aware of the sheer expense of basic eye treatment. The two joined forces to implement a fully equipped mobile unit in Tando Bago, where patients could receive examinations and medication for free. In the mid-1980s, the prevalence of blindness in Pakistan had been recorded at 1.8% of the total population.

Since then, LRBT has grown to a wide-ranging network, covering 70% of the country. Patients from large cities to villages can visit an LRBT facility with ease. For millions, access to free medical care is nothing short of a miracle. Committed to providing free eye care for the underprivileged, LRBT has treated over 55 million patients across Pakistan, treating 10,500 patients every single day. By 2024, the organization has performed 5.4 million major and minor eye surgeries across its network.

LRBT specializes in ophthalmology and eye care services, treating patients from around the country for a wide variety of eye-related ailments, including cataract, glaucoma, retinal detachment, corneal disease, squinting, and diabetic retinopathy. Each LRBT hospital is fully equipped with state-of-the-art machinery to perform major and minor surgical procedures. Through donations, LRBT’s hospitals can access and implement new technologies not found in other well-known medical facilities.

LRBT is committed to upholding the core value that no patient should be turned away based on gender, religion, ethnicity, or disability. Just over 50% of all LRBT patients are women, with many being school-going children or women in the workforce. Free treatment – including examinations, medication, and surgeries – serves as a sign of hope. As patients regain their vision, the doors to a brighter future are opened.

LRBT achieved its latest milestone of treating 55 million patients at the end of last year. Bakhtawar, a thirteen-year-old patient from Sakro. Due to extreme poverty and poor vision, Bakhtawar would help her parents work rather than attend school. Her parents noticed that she struggled to focus on certain tasks but were unable to afford to take her to a doctor for an eye examination. They continued to worry about her weak eyesight, particularly after a serious fall, after which her mother noticed a translucent reflection in her left eye. In need of free treatment, the family visited LRBT where Bakhtawar was diagnosed with congenital cataracts. Her successful surgery gave Bakhtawar renewed hope for her future, as she can finally attend school and work towards her dream of being a teacher. “Thank you LRBT for helping children like me. I have been suffering from vision loss since I was a child, and now I am happier than ever as I can see properly.”

To maintain their standard of excellence, LRBT relies solely on Zakat and donations to ensure all deserving patients receive care at zero cost. Catering to a global network of donors, the organization utilizes fundraising to the fullest, holding events such as musical evenings, tournaments, and inter-hospital activities to raise funds.

Community outreach is imperative to LRBT’s cause. For decades, LRBT has worked tirelessly to spread awareness about eye-related illnesses. Through free eye screening camps in schools, workplaces, and even parts of the country devastated by environmental disasters, LRBT has cemented its position as a leading healthcare organization in Pakistan. Devoted to restoring sight, the community outreach programs enable LRBT to expand their visibility in regions without proper medical facilities. “I was impressed when I visited LRBT for the first time,” a patient recalled, “it was clean and organized, and the staff were extremely kind to every patient waiting to see a doctor.

In the face of economic and political turmoil, millions in need can continue to look to LRBT as a beacon of hope.