Three Children From One Family Cured of Childhood Cataract Blindness… And Saved From Extreme Poverty
Just two months ago, Bir and Tulsi Thapa of the Jajarkot District in Nepal were extremely worried about their children. The couple had four children, Lalit (12), Bindu (8), Binita (6) and Nabin (1.5 years), three of them living with childhood cataract blindness. The family had been told they needed to go to the city for their children’s treatment and that the cost of curing all three of their children would be an estimated USD 2,500. However, the family’s entire annual income was just $300.
With no means to pay for the treatment to cure the children's blindness, the family was completely out of options and had accepted blindness as their children’s fate. Neighbours in the local village suggested the family register the children as blind so that they could at least receive some state benefit payments. Fortunately, for Bir and Tulsi, the hospital in Surkhet that they visited was a Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation partner hospital.
The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation was founded in March 2021 by London philanthropist Tej Kohli and Nepalese ‘God of Sight’ Dr Sanduk Ruit. Together the two men have now cured thousands of people of needless blindness and have created a dedicated fund for the cure of blindness in children.
In mid-August, 2022, a team from the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation arrived at Bir and Tulsi’s village in the Chhedagad Municipality, Jajarkot District of Nepal. The Jajarkot District in the Karnali Province of Nepal is one of the most underdeveloped districts of the country, access to quality healthcare is very limited for thousands of its residents and more than 50% of the district’s population lives below the poverty line. Bir, Tulsi and their four children are amongst them.
Extreme poverty is the reason that they are unable to cure their children, and this inability to cure their children continues to push the family further into poverty. If the three children aren’t treated soon, they will lose their sight permanently. Their ability to get an education will be reduced and they will struggle to find work. They will be ostracised from mainstream society and forced to live in a cycle of extreme poverty like much of the blind population in Nepal.
The school in the village is a very basic facility. It does not have provisions for the visually impaired. Bindu and Binita attend the same class as their peers, however, they are left behind due to their blindness. Once school is over, Lalit takes his sisters home. The journey is perilous, and several times the sisters have fallen down and injured themselves. Similarly, the house they live in is dangerous — with no bars or railings to guide them, the blind children could fall at any time.
The next day however is going to be different. The family prepares to leave for Kathmandu in the evening. After a 24-hour hike, they arrive in Kathmandu where their treatment began. The children are shown to Dr Rojeeta Parajuli, a doctor working for the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation. Dr Adhikari ascertains that all three children will have to undergo urgent surgery. Just one week later, their treatment is complete.
Childhood cataract blindness is one of the most prevalent causes of blindness and severe visual impairment in children. The majority of these children, like Bir and Tulsi’s children, live in the developing world. They continue to live a life of needless blindness because of three main factors: they are unaware of surgery; cannot access a hospital, or cannot afford surgery. The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation has committed to reversing at least 1,000 cases of childhood cataract blindness by 2026 in Nepal and has plans to expand its program that aims to prevent and cure early childhood cataracts in other parts of the developing world.
The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation was founded in March 2021 by London philanthropist Tej Kolhi and Kathmandu ‘God of Sight’ Dr Sanduk Ruit. By August 2022 the NGO had screened 149,568 patients and cured 18,465 of blindness at 82 outreach camps in Nepal, Bhutan and Ghana. The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation is a restricted fund operating under the auspices of Prism The Gift Fund, registered UK charity number 1099682. The Foundation targets the #1 United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of reducing poverty by making large-scale surgical interventions to cure blindness at the grassroots in the developing world. All treatments are provided completely free, with 100% of the funding coming from Tej Kohli and the Kohli family.