Dhaka, Sept 27: 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’ organised by the Daily Sun and Orbis International, Bangladesh at EWMGL conference room in Bashundhara R/A on Wednesday.

Experts at the discussion said around 4 lakh of the over 31 lakh babies born in Bangladesh annually risk of being afflicted with RoP and they require early eye screening to combat the risk of blindness.

Zahid Maleque, state minister for health and family welfare, spoke at the roundtable as the chief guest.

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 (NIO&H) head and National Eye Care line director Prof Golam Mostafa and NIO&H paediatrics unit head Prof Forhad Hossain also spoke at the event.

The Daily Sun acting editor Enamul Hoque Chowdhury presided over the discussion moderated by Orbis International’s Bangladesh country director Munir Ahmed.

The event was organised with support from Qatar Fund for Development to mark 30 years of Orbis in childhood blindness prevention in Bangladesh.

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.

Experts said ROP usually affects both eyes and is the main reason children have vision loss.

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,” he said.

However, the minister 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.

Zahid Maleque said around 7 lakh people, including 40 thousand children, are blind in Bangladesh and that 80 percent blindness is caused by the cataract.

He said Bangladesh now needs to give more attention to the life-long diseases such as eye ailments and diabetes.

Shiabur Rahman, executive editor of the Daily Sun, Nafiseh Ispahani, adviser to Ispahani Islamia Eye Institute and Hospital, Dr Khairul Islam, executive director of DECF, Rangpur Sharifuzzaman Parag from Dr K Zaman BNSG Eye Hospital, Mymensingh, Dr AKM Abdus Selim, secretary general and CEO BJAKS, Comilla, Dr Ariful Alam, director at HNPP of BRAC, Kishwar Imdad, managing director of Grameen Health Care Services, MA Masud Bhuiyan, honorary general secretary from Mazharul Haque BNSB Eye Hospital, Chandpur, Syed Mushahid Ahmed, honorary general secretary from Mouluvibazar BNSB Eye Hospital, Mahbubul Bari, deputy director from Khulna BNSB Eye Hospital, Khulna and Md Iqbal Hossain, project manager at Orbis International also spoke the event, among others.