Donner Canadian Foundation

With the continued support of the Donner Canadian Foundation, we're launching a new three-year initiative in 2021 with the goal of reducing avoidable blindness and visual impairment among newborns and children in the remote and chronically underserved rural districts of Rangpur, Sylhet, Chandpur and Gopalganj.

Bangladesh is the fifth largest country in Asia with a population of more than 160 million people, including more than 64 million children under the age of 16. 75% of the country’s population lives in remote, rural areas with high levels of poverty and limited access to quality eye care services. As a result, preventable diseases that cause visual impairment and blindness are a serious public health concern, particularly among children. As is the case in many developing countries, the rate of childhood blindness in Bangladesh’s rural regions is alarmingly high, with 6.3 out of every 10,000 children affected.

The National Childhood Blindness Project

In April 2013, with support from the Donner Canadian Foundation, Orbis launched a transformative multi-year initiative called the National Childhood Blindness Project (NCBP) to help build a nationwide network of high-quality pediatric eye care services throughout Bangladesh. Through the NCBP, Orbis has made significant strides towards:

  • Improving pediatric eye health infrastructure, capacity and service delivery at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels
  • Increasing availability and access to high-quality pediatric eye care services for more than 40 million children
  • Enhancing the knowledge and skillset of eye care professionals (especially in rural communities) so they can treat more patients and train others
  • Introducing new subspecialties and critical eye care services that did not previously exist
  • Engaging community members to be part of the solution through training and education in primary eye care
  • Empowering communities with information about the importance of proper eye health, common eye diseases and where to seek treatment
  • Developing national standards, policies and guidelines for pediatric eye care

With the support of the Donner Canadian Foundation, the NCBP has created 10 new pediatric eye care centres, provided eye screenings for more than 1.3 million children, and treated nearly 1 million children with moderate to severe eye conditions. Scheduled to conclude at the end of 2020, this 8-year project has also provided eye care training to more than 6,000 eye care professionals, community health workers, teachers, and community volunteers.

Strengthening Comprehensive Eye Care for Children and Newborns in Rural Bangladesh

In 2021, the Donner Canadian Foundation has pledged its continued support of Orbis’s work in Bangladesh through funding for a new project that will focus on addressing retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

Primarily affecting premature babies, ROP is the world’s leading cause of childhood blindness and is quickly emerging as a serious public health issue in Bangladesh. As the nation’s maternal, neonatal and child health services have improved, more premature babies are surviving to term. However, a lack of knowledge, training, modern medical equipment, and effective screening protocols for ROP in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) has led to an explosion of ROP, particularly among families in rural communities.

With the generous support of the Donner Canadian Foundation, this comprehensive three-year initiative will aim to reduce avoidable blindness and visual impairment among newborns and children in the remote and chronically underserved rural districts of Rangpur, Sylhet, Chandpur and Gopalganj. Building on the key achievements and infrastructure created through the NCBP, the project will scale up pediatric eye care capacity – with a specific focus on ROP screening, treatment and referral services at Deep Eye Care Foundation (DECF) in Rangpur, VARD Eye Hospital in Sylhet, Mazharul Haque BNSB Eye Hospital in Chandpur and Sheikh Fazilatunnessa Mujib Eye Hospital & Training Institute (SFMEHTI) in Gopalganj.

The hospitals will be equipped with modern equipment and technology that is critical for delivering high-quality ROP services. Specialized ROP training will be provided for ophthalmologists, nurses, medical technicians and other key hospital staff, and a new referral network will be created between the four specialized eye hospitals and local hospitals with neonatal intensive care units. This referral network will help ensure premature babies and their families throughout the four districts have access timely ROP screening, diagnosis or treatment.

We will also work closely with our partners to deliver community eye screening camps, eye health education programs/events and eye health messaging targeting parents with newborns and young children in rural areas. Community outreach programs are an effective tool for addressing many of the key barriers to accessing eye care that families in remote regions often face.

Finally, the project will seek to establish a National Forum for pediatric eye care in Bangladesh to monitor quality, training and service delivery standards for child and newborn eye care services. This National Forum will be a collaborative effort among development organizations, government ministries/institutions, professional bodies, community groups, and eye care service providers. It will promote an integrated approach to comprehensive eye health services for children and newborns to dramatically improve early identification, referral, treatment and follow up care throughout the country.

About the Donner Canadian Foundation

The Donner Canadian Foundation was established in 1950 by William H. Donner. In the mid-1960s, the Foundation began to focus on specific program interests, among these, research on public policy. The Donner family chose Canada's centennial year, 1967, to embark on a course of professional grantmaking that has contributed well over $150 million to almost 2,500 projects across Canada and around the world.

In addition to ongoing funding of public policy research, the Foundation supports environmental, international development, and social service projects. Every year, the Donner Book Prize honours the best book on Canadian public policy, and the Foundation's lecture series features some of the world's most influential speakers. The Foundation is guided by a Board of Governors composed of representatives of the Donner family and prominent Canadians from a variety of fields.