Nepal has for generations been a historical and spiritual center, nestled in the lap of the Himalayas. It is a location that grabs the hearts of both travelers and pilgrims due to its breathtaking surroundings and rich heritage.
Nonetheless, a hidden problem looms among this splendor – sight impairment. Nepal was one of the first countries where a nationwide population-based survey on blindness and visual impairment was conducted in 1980-1981.
As of 2022, roughly four percent of Nepal’s population, or approximately 1.2 million individuals, are visually impaired. While beautiful, the steep topography creates significant barriers to healthcare access in many communities.
The Shadows of Sight: Understanding Nepal’s Blindness
In Nepal, 0.32% of the population is blind or visually impaired. Surprisingly, only 8.4 ophthalmologists are available for every million individuals. Cataracts, which can be remedied with very easy surgical treatments, are the primary reason for blindness in this enthralling country.
The Battle Against Blindness in Nepal: A Joint Effort
In the heart of Nepal, an amazing struggle against blindness is taking place, led by quiet heroes—NGOs dedicated to improving the lives of persons with visual impairments. While the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation play an important part in this struggle, it is critical to highlight the larger activities of NGOs that have made significant contributions.
The first childrens’ eye center was established by NGOs in Nepal, guaranteeing that even the most vulnerable members of the community receive the necessary care. They have also been crucial in upgrading eight pediatric eye care facilities across the country, enabling them to reach more young people who are in need.
NGOs carried out the first mapping of Nepal’s human resource and eye care infrastructure through a ground-breaking research effort. They opened the path for an improved and comprehensive strategy to address cataract blindness by recognizing gaps and potential areas of development.
Developing the Future of Ophthalmologists
NGOs have shown unnerving dedication to the training of the first pediatric ophthalmologists in the nation. They are not only treating blindness now but also assuring a more promising future for Nepal’s eye care industry, by investing in education and skill development. These facilities ensure that eye care is available to everyone, regardless of location, acting as rays of hope in isolated and underserved communities.
Nepal’s Victory Over Blindness
Because of the considerable contributions of non-governmental organizations, Nepal stands as a symbol of hope, indicating that it is possible to reverse the rise of blindness in a developing country. The path to this incredible achievement was not without difficulties, but it contains vital lessons for the rest of the globe.
The Initial Difficulties: Shortage of Infrastructure
In the early 1990s, Nepal’s eye care environment was characterized by a scarcity of qualified ophthalmologists, ophthalmic nurses, and assistants. Modern cataract procedures with intraocular lens implantation were rare, and formal eye care systems were almost non-existent. Due to a limited budget and a suffering economy, the government’s dedication to eye care was paltry.
Establishment of Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO)
The Nepal Eye Programme was founded in 1992 as a non-profit, community-based NGO to reduce and prevent blindness in Nepal. The Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO), the program’s implementing organization, was founded in Kathmandu two years later due to the efforts of Dr. Ruit and his colleagues. TIO sought to lead the way in tertiary eye care, education, and infrastructure development while minimizing costs.
Support for international NGOs: Key to Success
International NGOs provided TIO with continuous support as it quickly broadened its scope. These organizations made investments in the creation of training facilities, the acquisition of necessary tools such as operating microscopes and devices, and the encouragement of intraocular lens production. TIO was propelled to the forefront of eye care in Nepal thanks in large part to these strategic investments.
The Beginning of the Journey: Lumbini’s Sacred Soil
The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation set off on a difficult journey in March 2021. They chose Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, as the origin of their expedition. They screened and healed people on sacred grounds, marking a watershed event for their NGO. The first camp alone transformed 312 lives, releasing people from unnecessary cataract blindness.
Shining Brighter: Illuminating the Lives of 21,922 People
The foundation’s influence has been exceedingly astounding since its inception. In less than two years, they have given the gift of sight to 21,922 people in Nepal alone. However, their impact goes beyond statistics and into the hearts of people. In Tapethok, 70 people were cured of blindness, whereas in Basantapur, 221 people were screened and 152 were given the gift of sight. The figures continue to astound: 4,833 in Madhesh, 27,583 in Kalikot, 178 in Solukhumbu, and 790 in other locations. These are not just statistics, but real-life stories brought to light by Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation.
Allies in Vision: Hospitals Lighting the Path
Collaborations with hospitals around Nepal are critical to the foundation’s goals. These institutes act as beacons of hope in outlying areas, holding outreach camps and offering critical human resources such as eye specialists and ophthalmic assistants. They’ve worked together to create a symphony of attempts to reclaim sight and change lives.
Return of the Gift of Sight: Kunti and Reshma’s Emotional Journey
The foundation’s workers had the honor of revisiting two young girls, Kunti and Reshma, aged 7 and 13, respectively, in the Bajhang District. The NGO gave these sisters the wonderful gift of sight in December 2021. Their metamorphosis has been nothing short of amazing. Both sisters have returned to school after being forced to leave due to their eyesight. Their mother, who had previously worked full-time as their caretaker, has now returned to work, guaranteeing they are nourished and warm.
A Vision for 2030: Eliminating Blindness and Transforming Lives
The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation’s purpose goes beyond recovering sight to breaking free from poverty. Tej Kohli and Dr. Sanduk Ruit have set lofty goals for themselves, united by a vision of economic progress. They aim to cure 3,00,000 to 5,00,000 persons of blindness by 2030, pulling them out of poverty and brightening their futures.
Looking ahead, we envisage a world where NGOs continue to play a crucial role in opening eyes, minds, and futures, demonstrating that no challenge is insurmountable when compassion and determination are the guiding lights. This world is one that is inspired by Nepal’s journey.