Eye health camp takes up residency in East Nepal

The eye health community screening camp in Nepal

Megaphone advertising, pamphlets and a poster campaign attracted more than 200 people to an inclusive eye health camp in a small village in eastern Nepal, near the border of India.

Despite blistering heat, mums and dads with babies and school aged children, along with grandparents and hundreds of other people travelled long, and dusty, distances to see one of seven eye care professionals from this CBM-funded program

When we arrived at 10.30am, the temperature was 44 degrees and ophthalmic assistants had already screened 100 people. Those requiring small procedures had them on the spot. Those with low vision or refractive sight conditions received scripts for glasses that would be delivered the next day. Those requiring operations, mainly due to cataracts, had been sent home to collect their bags and return at 4pm when a bus was scheduled to take them to the CBM-funded eye hospital about an hour away. All these services are completely free.

Free and accessible health care is vital in Nepal. According to the World Bank, almost 11% of Nepal’s population lives below the $1.90 a day poverty line. And, according to the Nepal Blindness Survey conducted in 1981, 2.7% of the population are visually impaired. A high percentage of people with visual impairments live the eastern region of Nepal, where the CBM-funded program is located.

Over the past 38 years, with the assistance of the generous Australians who support CBM, eye health across Nepal has improved. The Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) survey undertaken over a four-year period from 2006 to 2010 indicated that the occurrence of blindness in Nepal has decreased from 0.84% to 0.35%. The next iteration of the RAAB survey is currently being undertaken across Nepal and we are convinced that ongoing support for accessible eye health programs will help provide continuous improvement throughout Nepal.

Encouragingly, CBM’s community-based inclusive development program has ensured those with continuing low vision are provided with assistive devices, job training and specialist assistance to return to school or study. Where Disabled People’s Organisations are active within their community, locals are encouraged to join in advocacy programs aimed at improving attitudes towards those living with disability and increasing inclusiveness for all.

Despite the work and improvements in eye health, cataracts continue to be the major cause of blindness (62.2%) in Nepal. More than 111,000 people are blind in one or both eyes due to cataracts.

Back in this small eastern Nepal community centre, appointments are running like clockwork ensuring that 200 people will have their eyesight assessed between 9am and midday.

This eye health camp is just one of 140 CBM-funded camps that will travel through eastern Nepal over the next year with the strong ambition of eradicating preventable blindness for the people of this beautiful region.

Be sure to tune into your local Christian radio station for Miracles Day on Thursday 15 August to hear inspiring stories of life-changing cataract surgery live from eastern Nepal.

A gift of $33 can give someone with preventable blindness or cataracts the Miracle gift of site. Visit cbm.og.au/miraclesday or call 131226.

This year, through Miracles Day, we’re hoping to give 40,000 people sight saving surgery.