Dr Munir Ahmed, Country Director, Orbis International Bangladesh, has been a vital and driven member of the Orbis community for almost a decade. As a doctor with further training in tropical medicine and hygiene, management of public health and social development, Munir began his career with a great launch pad from which to tackle health concerns.
Having previously worked with UN agencies, local governments and non-governmental organisations across Bangladesh and Afghanistan, in 2012, Munir directed his expertise towards fighting avoidable blindness. With a key focus on partnership building to develop effective programmes, Munir has supported Orbis to improve eye health services for communities who need it most.
Through Munir’s dedication, Orbis International Bangladesh has grown from providing 331,187 eye screenings and supporting 1,302 persons to receive eye health training in 2012, to three times as many outputs in 2019. When Munir became Country Director, there were few established partnerships, however, the charity now has 23 direct partner organisations, including BRAC and Grameen.
He has also been successful in influencing policy at government level, advocating for the inclusion of childhood blindness, Retinopathy of Prematurity, Diabetic Retinopathy, Vision Centres and Human Resources for Eye Health within the country’s National Eye Care Plan.
Orbis is considered a key organisation in eye care in Bangladesh. One of the amazing steps that has been taken, thanks to Munir and his team’s dedication, is the government’s recognition of the importance of vision centres. With plans to establish 200 through government resources, 50 are already up and running. As an extension of this work, Orbis-supported partners have established another 70, putting eye health at the heart of communities.
Specialised eye health services for children have also been greatly strengthened, with the development of new paediatric eye care centres, alongside a national level network. The opening of the first Retinopathy of Prematurity centre outside of the capital, Dhaka, has been a catalyst for more hospitals recognising the importance of dedicating resources to this condition. This year, Orbis was awarded a gold medal from a partner hospital for our novel contribution to the development of paediatric eye health.
Munir’s drive and visionary thinking truly aligns with Vision 2020. He has dedicated his time to building programmes which not only reach communities, but make services affordable, sustainable and most of all, accessible to those who cannot pay.
In 2018, Munir and his team developed a programme to assist both refugees and the local host population in Cox’s Bazaar. As the first eye health organisation to provide services within the camps, demand has been exceptionally high as many have never had access to support before. In the first three months of this year alone, of the 22,000 who were screened for eye conditions, almost half required some form of treatment.
Munir says: “Building strong partnerships with development organizations, embracing innovative technologies and empowering communities in eye care are crucial to achieve universal eye health coverage beyond 2020.”