Changing the Landscape of Child Eye Care in Bangladesh

In December 2020, Orbis completed a milestone project in Bangladesh that has transformed the landscape – and the future – of children’s eye health in the country. Launched in 2013 with support from the Donner Canadian Foundation, the National Childhood Blindness Project (NCBP) has created access to critical pediatric eye care services for more than 40 million children.

Along with dramatically improving pediatric eye care infrastructure nationwide, the NCBP trained nearly 6,300 eye care professionals and community health workers, empowering them with the knowledge and skills to treat millions of children and train Bangladesh’s next generation of eye care providers.

Over the course of this landmark project, the lives of more than one million children were changed forever through sight-saving surgery, medication to treat an eye disease, or a pair of glasses to correct blurry vision. And countless other families were empowered with knowledge about childhood eye diseases, the importance of proper eye care, and how to access treatment in their communities.

But these figures tell only one part of the story. The true impact of the NCBP is the legacy of quality child eye care that was created – and with it, a better future for millions more children and their families for generations to come.

Over the last eight years, the NCBP has entirely reshaped Bangladesh’s eye health system by creating specialized child eye care centres in rural districts, developing national standards for pediatric eye care, and establishing a nationwide referral network so families living in even the poorest and most remote villages can access eye care for their children. As a result, generations of children and their families will be freed from the often inescapable cycle of blindness and poverty.

Now, with the continued support of the Donner Canadian Foundation and the Peter Gilgan Foundation, we are continuing to build on the legacy of the NCBP by taking direct aim at the impending epidemic of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) in Bangladesh. ROP primarily affects premature babies and is the world’s leading cause of childhood blindness – but it is also entirely preventable.

Mazharul Haque BNSB Eye Hospital’s community vision centre in Lakshmipur district opened in 2018

This new initiative will establish specialized ROP centres, improve the knowledge and skills of eye care workers and neonatal intensive care unit staff, and increase awareness and understanding about ROP among families in rural communities where rates of ROP are the highest. With the continued support of our partners and funders, we are working towards a future where ROP is a thing of the past.

If you feel inspired to save the sight of more children in Bangladesh, please consider donating to Orbis.

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