305 cured of blindness in Nepal’s Nijgad area by the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation

In March, 2022, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation staged one of the biggest mountainous area cataract microsurgical camps ever organized in Nepal wherein 333 patients returned home after their blindness was cured. Whilst this was ongoing, another team working with the foundation were busy screening patients in Nepal’s plains for another scheduled microsurgical camp.

The team organized seven screening camps from 15th to 22nd March with a special focus on reaching out to extremely marginalized communities of the region, who were most likely to be unable to afford or access cataract surgery due to their socio-economic status.

2,206 people from three districts, (Bara, Rautahat and Parsa) were screened for any form of visual impairment, of which more than 300 patients were identified to have been living with cataract blindness. They were then invited for their free surgeries at a Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation microsurgical camp in Nijgad on 24th, 25th and 26th of March, 2022.

On 23rd March, 2022, a team from the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology along with a few other team members from Hetauda Community Eye Centre made their way to Nijgad. Nepal’s Terai belt, despite being much more well connected than Nepal’s hilly regions, is a region with one of the highest cataract prevalence in the country.

According to a report by Nepal’s Department of Health Services, “Proportion of untreated cataract remains highest in Province 2 (88.5%)”. The report further outlines barriers for uptake of cataract surgery as “affordability, accessibility, lack of felt need, and fear of surgery”, in that order.

The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation, which has cured over 13,000 patients of cataract blindness in its first year, continues to make efforts towards tackling each barrier as mentioned by the report. The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation eliminates the problem of affordability by providing free surgery, improves accessibility by taking its outreach camps to some of the most underserved regions of Nepal, and provides counseling to patients living with cataract blindness on the need of surgery, while providing quality cataract surgeries which is second to none.

Once at Nijgad, the team set up an operating theatre, a biometrics lab, an anesthetic ward, a sterilisation room, a post-operative ward, all part of a mobile cataract surgical delivery system perfected by the co-founder of the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation Dr Sanduk Ruit. Dr Ruit, who has taken his mobile surgical delivery system to some of the most underserved regions of not only Nepal, but across Asia and Africa, with his partnership with British philanthropist Mr Tej Kohli wishes to use his life’s work by curing as many as half a million people of needless blindness by 2030. Mr Kohli, who believes that in order to end poverty we must invest in curing the developing world’s needlessly blind, is enthusiastic about his partnership with Dr Ruit, and is keen to make the movement a worldwide movement to eliminate needless blindness with an overarching mission to reduce extreme poverty in the developing world.

On the 24th, surgeries quickly began. Patients began arriving early at the camp holding their referral papers. Once at the camp, the medical team conducted their biometrics, and began ushering one patient after another to the operating theatre. The operating team, led by Dr. Govinda Paudyal, a highly regarded cataract and vitreo-retina surgeon, skillfully removed one cataract after another. In three days, Dr Paudyal conducted more than 200 cataract surgeries of the total 305 patients.

Patients arriving at the camp were of different races and from various communities – however all living a life of needless blindness due to untreated cataracts. Patients included Kanchi Maya Ghising, who was born deaf, but only became blind recently. Already living with a hearing impairment, her visual impairment added extra burden on Kanchi Maya Ghising’s personal and family members’ lives. After a successful surgery by Dr Paudyal, she along with her sight also rediscovered her smile.

Along with Kanchi, patients like Junglee Majhi, a member of Rautahat’s Dalit community, whose family has been unable to overcome the cycle of poverty due to their social status received a second chance to sight at the Nijgad eye camp. Similarly, 80 year old Buhari Chaudhary, who had lost all hopes of seeing again, was stunned to receive a second chance to sight.

She longed to return home and look at her great grandchildren again.

The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation in its first year was able to screen 128,094 and cure 13,659 of cataract blindness. Efforts towards co-founders Dr Ruit and Mr Kohli’s vision to screen one million and cure between 300,000 to 500,000 in the developing world continues.