12.5 percent infants born with blindness risk in Bangladesh

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Pns: Around 12.5 percent of the infants in Bangladesh are born with the risk of blindness as they are highly vulnerable to retinopathy of prematurity (RoP), a potentially blinding eye disease.

The information was revealed at a roundtable discussion on 'Childhood blindness prevention in Bangladesh' held at EWMGL conference room in Bashundhara in the city here today, said a press release.

Marking the 30 years of Orbis in childhood blindness prevention in Bangladesh, the Daily Sun and Orbis International, Bangladesh jointly organized the discussion. Qatar Fund for Development supported in organizing the programme, the release added.

State Minister for Health and Family Welfare Zahid Maleque addressed the roundtable as the chief guest with the Daily Sun acting Editor Enamul Hoque Chowdhury in the chair.

Health ministry additional secretary Habibur Rahman Khan, Directorate General of Health Services ADG (Planning and Development) Prof AHM Enayet Hussain, National Institute of Ophthalmology and Hospital (NIOH) head and National Eye Care line director Prof Golam Mostafa and NIOH paediatrics unit head Prof Forhad Hossain also spoke at the event.

Speaking at the roundtable, the state minister said that though Bangladesh has moved far ahead in eye care services, it still has to do a lot, especially in rural areas of the country, to ensure eye care for all. "We don't have enough paediatric ophthalmologists and modern equipments for eye treatment," Malek said.

The state minister, however, said the government has created posts in district and upazila hospitals for paediatric ophthalmologists and results of the appointment will come in the days ahead.

Around 7 lakh people, including 40 thousand children, are blind in Bangladesh and that 80 percent blindness is caused by the cataract, he said, adding Bangladesh now needs to give more attention to the life-long diseases such as eye ailments and diabetes.

Experts at the discussion said around 4 lakh of the over 31 lakh babies born in Bangladesh annually with risk of being afflicted with RoP and they require early eye screening to combat the risk of blindness and added that ROP usually affects both eyes and is the main reason children have vision loss.

Orbis International's director of programmes for Bangladesh Mohammed Alauddin said babies who weigh about 2.75 pounds and are born at less than 31 weeks are most likely to be afflicted with ROP.

PNS/Tamanna Khan