Nepal faces numerous health challenges, particularly in remote areas. Ruby Valley is nestled in the heart of the Himalayas and the 12-hour drive from Kathmandu along narrow and winding roads can be dangerous if not impossible during extreme weather conditions. Geographic isolation and the cost of medical care have impacted the population’s access to and utilization of medical services, especially ophthalmic screening and therapeutic interventions.

To address this situation, Karuna-Shechen has initiated an ophthalmic health program that includes cataract screening and surgical care.

Planning and Implementation

The goal of our organization is to serve the community and work for the well-being of health and hygiene.

Deependra Panta, Program Manager for Health and Hygiene in Nepal

When Karuna’s teams developed and implemented a systematic plan in Ruby Valley the first step was to define the needs of the populations, which confirmed that the challenges posed by its remote location exacerbate the health vulnerability of many people living there.

The development of this project required specialized support. In collaboration with the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, our teams established a cataract screening and surgery center in the heart of Ruby Valley which reduced travel time for surrounding villages. In this center, the health needs and medical problems of villagers are assessed, Primary Care is provided, and common conditions are treated.. Patients with more serious illnesses and those requiring surgery can be transferred to the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu.

A Particularly Vulnerable Population

Elderly villagers living in Ruby Valley are particularly vulnerable and the journey to Kathmandu often poses a health risk for them. When untreated ophthalmic diseases progress they impact villagers’ vision and consequently diminish their autonomy and livelihood.

As Dr. Om Bahadur Gurung from the Tilganga Eye Hospital testifies : “I met several elderly people, some reaching the age of 90, with mature bilateral cataracts. What struck me was the profound impact of the disease on their lives. Not only could they not travel to Kathmandu for essential treatments, but they also could not afford to financially travel to the hospital. Their existence was marked by a perpetual struggle, as they lived with visual impairments and depended entirely on family members for their daily mobility.”

The prospect of undergoing cataract surgery became more than just a medical procedure; it represented a path to independence.

Docteur Om Bahadur Gurung

The center was strategically placed in Serthung in Ruby Valley in order to facilitate access to care. Despite this intention, elderly individuals from the villages of Kapur Gaun, Khading, Kapchet, Lapchet, and Hendung still faced region specific geographic l obstacles to reach the center Chandra Bahadur Ghale’s mother-in-law testifies to the difficulty of accessing healthcare :

The journey from our village to the camp was not easy due to the lack of transportation and the rugged terrain. My mother-in-law suffered from vision problems, which could have led to complications if we had to travel to urban centers like Kathmandu to see a doctor. The absence of transportation in our village, coupled with traffic difficulties getting to Kathmandu complicates these journeys. Elderly people, like my mother-in-law, not only face physical fatigue but also face health risks associated with prolonged travel, including exposure to pollution.

Support Vulnerable Individuals in Accessing Healthcare

Healing in the Service of Independence

Examination of individuals who visited the center identified 142 cases of advanced cataracts, of which 90 required surgery, and 4 cases of pterygium.

Lal Bahadur Gurung, a beneficiary of this program, shares his experience: “My vision has been blurry for a long time, preventing me from seeing things from afar. Given my age, the obstacles seemed insurmountable, and the idea of seeking treatment in the city was an unattainable project due to geographical and financial constraints. I felt like I had to live with this problem forever. However, the establishment of an eye health service in Ruby Valley changed everything. I am deeply grateful to have received a health check-up that identified the causes of the problem and then performed the necessary surgeries.”

A Successful Collaboration

The eye disease screening program was designed collaboratively and involved the affected populations, the municipality, and the Tilganga Institute. This approach enabled healthcare professionals to provide their expertise and care to inaccessible populations.

Dr. Om Bahadur Gurung testifies to the joy and satisfaction of the success of this program, made possible by close collaboration among all these actors: “Witnessing the transformation of the lives of 94 patients fills me with immense pride. It goes beyond the clinical aspect; it’s about restoring autonomy, dignity, and giving purpose to the lives of these individuals. These are the moments that reaffirm the profound impact of collaborative efforts in healthcare.

Despite the challenges, the initiative has been successful and has helped people move around independently and accomplish daily tasks such as cooking, sewing, and farming.

Deependra Panta, Program Manager for Health and Hygiene

Karuna-Shechen’s eye health program illustrates the transformative change that collaborative efforts can bring to the lives of those in need. By supporting the residents of Ruby Valley, this initiative not only addresses ophthalmic health problems but also opens the door to better healthcare accessibility in remote regions.

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