Bajhang district in Nepal’s remote far-western region boasts of untamed natural beauty. However, the district is also one of the most underserved regions of the country. For those seeking primary healthcare services, they would have to reach the district’s headquarter in Chainpur, and for any other specialized health service, they would have to make a journey of more than eight hours to the plains.
It was in this district, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation decided to conduct its outreach microsurgical camps in December, 2021. Because travelling to and from the district would require immense resources, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation decided to conduct camps in three locations over a month – therefore covering the entire district.
The camps were respectively held in Deulekh (16th and 17th December, 2021), Chainpur (19th, 20th and 21st December, 2021) and Bijgada (26th and 27th December, 2021). Altogether, the three microsurgical camps were able to screen 1987 patients and cure 352 people of blindness.
Patients from different age groups who were suffering from various forms of visual impairment and were unable to either afford or avail treatment arrived at the camps. In some cases, patients had to walk five to six hours of difficult mountain terrain, many times with the assistance of family members to arrive at the camp. In Deulekh and Bijgada, dilapidated classrooms had to be transformed into a functional operating theatre – and a medical team would conduct surgeries from 8 am in the morning to 7 pm at night – all to fill the backlog of cataract blindness within the region.
Team members working with the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation would tirelessly screen the patients for cataract blindness, conduct their bio-metrics, and after applying an anesthetic block patients would undergo a seven minute small-incision cataract surgery, a simple and efficient surgical technique perfected by our co-founder Dr Sanduk Ruit. Dr Ruit’s small-incision cataract surgery has enabled hundreds of ophthalmologists and organizations working in cataract blindness prevention programs such as the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation to expand their efforts to reach marginalized and underserved community, and give patients a second chance to sight.
At the end of the three camps, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation was successful in conducting 352 cataract surgeries.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, accounting for half of the world’s 40 million. The majority of the world’s 20 million cataract blind live in the developing world. Cataract blindness causes severe economic and social problems. Only a small percentage of people who develop cataracts receive cataract surgery because they live in communities where they cannot access or afford healthcare.
A cataract surgery can cost as little as USD 50 and lasts only seven minutes. The ripple effect of curing blindness transforms the social and economic prospect of entire communities for the better. In 2021, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation was able to cure 9,854 patients of cataract blindness in some of the most underserved regions of Nepal.
The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation is committed to screen at least one million people, and to cure 500,000 of cataract blindness by 2026 in its mission to close the pervasive treatment gap within the world’s poorest communities.