Pediatric Eye Care & ROP ProjectStrengthening Quality Eye Care Services for Children's and Newborns in Bangladesh
Childhood Blindness: Bangladesh is the fifth largest populated country in Asia with a population of over 160 million people, including more than 60 million children under the age of 16. Over 70 percent families live in remote, rural areas with high levels of poverty and limited access to basic eye care services. Using the WHO global estimate of Childhood blindness prevalence of 0.75/1,000 children, there are about 48,000 blind children in Bangladesh. The prevalence of childhood blindness in a rural area of Bangladesh is 6.3 per 10,000 children (0.63/1,000 children). There are 1.3 million children aged 5-15 years, with refractive error at <6/18 visual acuity, at an estimated prevalence of 4% (Urban more than 4.5% and rural around 3%). A further 153,600 children have low vision problems, of which an estimated 78,300 cases could be treated or cured with access to proper eye care. As a result, preventable diseases that cause visual impairment and blindness are a serious public health concern throughout the country, particularly when it comes to children and newborns.
Blindness, visual impairment and barriers to accessing eye care services for children and neonates at the rural community has huge negative impact on the country. To address visual impairment and blindness, with Donner Canadian Foundation funding, Orbis Bangladesh, in partnership with the Partners successfully implementing National Childhood Blindness Reduction Program. The project created a sustainable comprehensive model of eye care for children across Bangladesh, delivering high-quality services and raising awareness among patients and their caregivers. Through this project Orbis established ten pediatric centers and provided eye care service to 1.3 million children. Based on this experience and lessons learned over the years, Orbis will expand services for children and neonates to provide comprehensive quality eye care services on cataract, ROP, strabismus, injury etc. The number of referrals and follow up for children living in remote, rural districts has been increased using Out Bound Dialing System (OBD). Data shows that post-operative follow up of pediatric cataract surgery has increased to 60% in 2019 from 48% in 2018. OBD is also contributing to creating awareness on childhood blindness among community people. This will be expanded in other locations to increase follow up rate.
ROP: Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is one of the blinding eye conditions that is a rising concern in Bangladesh. It is a disorder that primarily affects premature and low birthweight infants. ROP causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, leading to scarring of the retina, causing vision loss and ultimately blindness. There are more than 3 million babies born annually in Bangladesh. Of these, 22.6% are low birth weight and 12.5% are pre-term babies. Approximately 400,000 babies are born prematurely, and are at a significantly increased risk of ROP. 70% (or 280,000) of these babies are born in underserved areas outside Bangladesh’s capital city, Dhaka. According to one study in Bangladesh, there is 35% ROP in preterm and premature neonates with a gestational age of 34 weeks or less and a birth weight of 1800 gram or less. Of 13 child eye health facilities established by Orbis, only 4 have ROP services in 4 districts which is inadequate to cover 400, 000 premature babies born annually in Bangladesh. according to a national survey. Screening for ROP remains extremely limited across Bangladesh, so it is widely agreed that the prevalence of the condition is much more severe than these figures indicate.