Nepal’s remotest eye camp: Karnali province

Karnali Province is one of Nepal’s seven provinces. It is located in the country’s northwestern corner and is recognized for its remote and rough terrain, which includes mountainous sections of the Himalayas. Despite, the biggest covering area, Karnali has the lowest population among all and is also the least developed sector.

Based on the RAAB survey 2019, the prevalence of bilateral blindness among people aged 50 years and above in Karnali Province is over 1%. The major causes of blindness are cataract (61%). The estimated cataract backlog (<6/60 visual Acuity – VA) is 1,580 bilateral operable people; and 9,562 people in operable eyes. About 29 percent of its people live under absolute poverty with a per capita income of $606, which is substantially below the national average. In this modern era of development and technologies, people in this part of country are still struggling with lots of problems in order to get better facilities such as medical, water, education etc.

Considering those difficulties, Eye Care Foundation has been working in Karnali since last 4 decades in order to alleviate the eye problems of the people which will help them to be self-sufficient. Though there are District Hospitals and Health Care Centres in some parts of the region but still there is least eye care facilities therefore, ECF has been supporting to establish the Primary Eye Care Centres (PECC). Every year with the technical support of Himalaya Eye Hospital, Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh the Free Cataract Eye Surgical Camp has been organized in those area. The camp is being regularly conducted in Jumla, Humla, Mugu and Kalikot which has been the main focus of the Karnali Province.

In Jumla, there were nearly 39th eye camp, this means that ECF has already conducted 38 similar eye camps in Jumla since our establishment in year 1984 with the involvement of veteran ophthalmologist like Dr. Margreet Hogeweg and Dr. Gerard Smith.

Normally, the eye care takes 3 days for operation. The eye camp information is provided through the radio, pamphlet and many other communication media that helped people to get notice about the free camp. As the camp is organized in the premises of PECC, many people often queue for eye examination where some of them underwent cataract and minor surgeries. The patients are also provided with free glasses and medicines based on their need. This free eye camp has decreased the number of scuffles that they have to face while visiting to the eye hospital down to the city side having the bad road conditions.

In those camp, we came across many females who has been suffering since cataract from very long time and were unable to work efficiently but getting bounded by their home responsibilities and barriers all along their life. This shows that there are many females comparing to males that has been suffering from the vision problem from very beginning. If the camps are not to be organized in such areas those females might have to live with poor vision or even blind throughout their life because they were not allowed and capable to visit far from the locality.

In Summary, the eye camp has given light to many individuals who were visually impaired. Not only the camp has helped to the people but also the PECCs that has been set up by Eye Care Foundation to identify the number of people having vision problems and recommend them to visit such eye camps. However, in case of some serious conditions/ emergency people are referred to immediately visit the eye hospitals and not to wait for the camps. It has also given raise to the working and household women who are underprivileged including her eye health.

Now ECF feels proud to support on the dream of Karnali people “Prosperous Karnali, Happy Karnali”. This slogan is the envision of Karnali Provincial Government.

Credit: Eye care foundation team in Nepal