Blind World Magazine

self-reliant in eye treatment.

January 16, 2006.
Gorkhapatra - Kathmandu,Nepal.

Neglect of timely and proper medical cure for a sensitive body part like eye is contributing to a rise in the number of cases of blindness in Nepal.

In many parts of the country, lack of awareness and ignorance about any eye disease is still widespread where people take it as a curse of god or sin of previous birth, and very often, they turn to local shamans and spiritual healers for cure in such a situation instead of getting timely medical treatment in the hospital.

Every year, 36,000 new cases are being added to the number while over three hundred thousand people are found to have suffered from eye diseases of one or the other sort. This grim scenario is emerging despite the fact that a remarkable achievement has been made by the blindness eradication campaign launched by the Ministry of Health and the Nepal Netrajyoti Sangh some years ago at the initiative of the Sangh. Chairman of the Nepal Netrajyoti Sangh and Eye Specialist Dr. Ram Prasad Pokharel believes that the 16-bed section in Bir Hospital first started with 16 beds, has also made big achievement in its eye treatment service over these years. The shortage of manpower in this area including eye specialists in the country inspired Dr. Pokharel to establish the Nepal Eye Hospital in Kathmandu in 2031 B.S. Started with 12 beds initially, the eye hospital presently has 100 beds.

Following this situation, big strides have been made in eye treatment service in Nepal with many foreign donor countries taking interest in this area. In this connection, the establishment of the well-equipped eye hospitals in 12 zones in Nepal with joint efforts of His Majesty?s Government and international organizations as well as 38 eye service centers all over the country is worth mentioning.

Those days, there were only 7 eye doctors in the country. This number has shot up to 120 at present while the number of Ophthalmic Assistants has hovered around 350. Nevertheless, the number of doctors is still inadequate as only one eye doctor is available for two hundred thousand eye patients. So, there is a great need to increase the number of eye doctors, he said. The Blindness Eradication Project was started in Nepal with the joint effort of the Ministry of Health and the Sangh after the first survey conducted in 1981 showed a big increase in the number of eye patients in Nepal exceeding one hundred thousand which predicted a grim future scenario of eye disease in Nepal. The survey showed cataract patients as the biggest portion of eye patients followed by trachoma patients. At the time, many eye camps were set up and various publicity campaigns were launched to create public awareness about eye diseases.

A tremendous progress has been made by the Nepal Netrajyoti Sangh established in 1978 in giving eye sights to the eye patients.

He said,? we have been able to make big strides over these years in eye treatment from the situation in the past when doctors had to turn away patients without treatment as there was a great shortage of manpower and beds. However, quality treatment is available in Nepal now, as even the people from India come to Nepal for treatment?.

Ninety percent of eye patients in Nepal live in rural areas where people still do not go to hospital for treatment on time whenever something goes wrong with their eyes. As most of the people in rural areas are farmers by profession, they are quite exposed to the risk of getting their eyes pierced or hurt any time.

Cataract and trachoma have emerged as prominent among eye diseases in Nepal. Cataract is the main cause of blindness in Nepal.

Normally, people get cataract in their old age. In Terai, this disease has been found among the people in the age group of 45-50 while in midhills people in their 60s are found to have suffering and the incidence of this disease is high among the elderly people in their seventies in the Himalayan region. According to doctors, extreme dehydration, poor nutrition during pregnancy and serious injuries are the main factors responsible for cataract.

Likewise, another eye disease, trachoma is caused by bacteria which is transmitted to eye by flies and can mostly be found among the Tharu community in Terai. However, enormous progress has been made in controlling this disease after National Trachoma Programme has been launched since 2002. This disease can be cured with a dose of medicine in three years. This programme will be in place till 2010.

According to the Sangh, over one hundred and fifty thousand people undergo cataract surgery. One in 23 Nepalese has been found infected with cataract and 33 in each 1,000 people have been found suffering from other sorts of eye diseases.

Thanks to all the strenuous efforts made by Nepal in this sector, situation has improved more than in the past. Now, eye patients are no longer required to travel abroad for costly treatment. Doctors here have high hopes for Nepal to gain self-reliance in eye treatment service. HEADLINES

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