Empowering Chepang Communities
Addressing Healthcare Disparities and Poverty through Innovative Cataract Surgery

The Chepang communities of Nepal, nestled in the remote regions of the Inner Himalayas, represent some of the most marginalised and isolated populations in the world. According to the National Federation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN), their plight is one of extreme hardship and neglect. 

With approximately 68,000 Chepang people dispersed across these challenging terrains, they have faced numerous adversities, including the recent onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this article, we delve into the multifaceted challenges faced by the Chepang communities, particularly in the realm of healthcare and poverty, and explore how innovative cataract surgery techniques, championed by the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation, are providing a beacon of hope for these marginalised groups.

Healthcare Challenges in the Remote Chepang Communities

One of the most pressing issues confronting the Chepang communities is their limited access to basic healthcare services. Due to their remote locations, many of these communities find themselves far removed from hospitals and pharmacies. This geographical isolation makes accessing even the simplest forms of medical assistance a perilous journey. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, this vulnerability was exacerbated, underscoring the urgent need for improved healthcare infrastructure and accessibility.

Covid-19's Impact on Chepang Communities

The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the Chepang communities, further exposing their vulnerability. The lockdowns and restrictions imposed to curb the virus’s spread disrupted the fragile economy of these communities. Many Chepang people relied heavily on trade with regional markets as their primary source of livelihood. However, the pandemic-induced restrictions resulted in a severe famine, leaving a significant portion of the population struggling to meet their basic needs. This crisis was not the first adversity faced by the Chepang community; they endured the hardships of the 2015 earthquake and the Nepal blockade in the same year.

The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation's Vision

In March 2021, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation was established with a compelling vision – to eliminate needless blindness in low-income countries. The foundation’s founders recognised the profound link between poverty and blindness, as highlighted in their report, and committed to eradicating extreme poverty by curing cataract-induced blindness. This mission resonates closely with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Innovative Cataract Surgery Techniques

One of the hallmark achievements of the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation is its commitment to leveraging innovative cataract surgery techniques developed by Dr. Sanduk Ruit. These groundbreaking techniques have already transformed the lives of over 48,000 individuals in Nepal and Bhutan by restoring their vision. Through a network of outreach camps, the foundation has been able to bring sight to those who had lost hope. Dr. Ruit’s pioneering approach to cataract surgery is not only cost-effective but also highly efficient, making it an invaluable resource for underserved communities.

A Vision for the Future

The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation’s ambitious goal is to cure up to 500,000 individuals of cataract-induced blindness by the year 2030. This commitment holds the promise of transforming countless lives, including those within the marginalised Chepang communities. By addressing the issue of blindness, the foundation is indirectly tackling the broader challenges of poverty and healthcare disparities that have plagued these communities for generations.

The Chepang communities of Nepal have long endured the harsh realities of isolation, poverty, and inadequate healthcare. However, initiatives like the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation’s innovative cataract surgery techniques offer a glimmer of hope. By addressing the issue of blindness, this foundation is not only restoring sight but also catalysing positive changes in the lives of these marginalised communities. As they continue to work toward their ambitious goals, there is room for optimism that the Chepang people will experience a brighter, more inclusive future, free from the shackles of extreme poverty and preventable blindness.

The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation was founded in March 2021 by London philanthropist Tej Kolhi and Kathmandu ‘God of Sight’ Dr Sanduk Ruit. As of November 2022 the NGO had screened 170,022 patients and cured 22,663of blindness at 91 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.