Manang, Nepal — 18 screening camps cures whole district of blindness #2030InSight
The Manang District in the Annapurna region of Nepal is known to be a paradise for travellers. The district is set behind the Himalayas and is surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains, whilst boasting a serene natural landscape, it is also one of the least accessible areas in the county.
With a small population of only 5,645 people living across scattered villages which are connected either by off-road tracks or walking trails. For the people living in the district, the nearest eye hospital is at least a day’s drive away from the district headquarters in Chame. The district is served by a single community eye care centre in Chame, however services are limited. If one has to undergo a simple cataract surgery, they will still have to make the long, treacherous journey to the eye hospital.
It was here that the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation conducted its 75th outreach microsurgical eye camp in May, 2022. Preparations for the camp began over a month before it occurred with many involved aspiring to cure as many people as possible.
Working in collaboration with the Community Eye Centre in Chame, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation organised 18 screening camps to screen the entire district for people living with curable blindness.
Screening camps were organised in the following villages: Taal, Dharapani, Nachai, Tilche, Wadar, Khangsar, Manang, Bharka, Humde, Gyaru, Phu, Ngawal, Nar, Pisang (Upper & Lower), Tache, Dhaneque, Thanchok, and Chame.
The expeditions were led by Amisha Joshi and Sul Bahadur Gurung. The team was able to screen 832 people across the district. Of the 832 screened, 62 were identified as living with some form of vision loss and were then invited for their free surgeries at the microsurgical camp in Chame, Manang.
The importance of organising screening camps:
According to a report, various studies in developing countries have shown that the cost, lack of knowledge, logistical constraints, fear of surgery and gender as barriers to uptake of cataract surgery.
Screening camps, which are organised to occur prior to the microsurgical camp, are a concerted effort to identify and cure as many people living with needless blindness in underserved communities. This helps alleviate most, if not all of the barriers mentioned above.
During our screening camp in Thanchok, 68 year old Jun Maya Gurung believed her deteriorating vision was owing to refractive error. She was surprised to learn that she was living with cataracts. She was happy to learn the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation would cure her of her blindness.
To screen patients in the Nar and Phu villages, Sul Bahadur Gurung made a two day trek to reach the village. He had to hire a porter to travel alongside him to assist in carrying the supplies needed to screen the patient. Guruang was successful in identifying 11 people living with needless blindness.
These 11 people were unaware of the fact that they were living with curable blindness. They also did not have the financial means to pay for the surgery and also lacked the privilege of an escort to assist them in travelling to a hospital. During the surgical camp, the eleven patients were escorted by two nuns from the local monastery.
As of the date we compile the report, the 11 people of Nar, who had never heard of cataracts, are now able to live a life free of needless blindness, thanks to the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation.
With the mission to screen one million in the world’s most underserved communities, and to cure 300,000–500,000 of the world’s needlessly blind population. Co-founders of the foundation Dr Ruit and Mr Kohli hope to have a further impact on the number one United Nations Sustainable Development Goal which is to eliminate poverty worldwide.
As of May, 2022, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation has screened 142,033 patients and has screened 16,721 people of needless blindness.