Delivering Care - Cure Blindness in Nepal

The second project started in the Himalayas in Nepal but now has spread to six other countries in developing world. Himalayan Cataract Project is a brain child of Dr. Sanduk Ruit, a Nepalese eye surgeon, who invented a cheap and simple method to operate cataract and restore vision. The organization was later on started by Dr. Tabin, American eye specialist who fell in love with the project while on holidays in Himalaya. The duo is now leading the world’s biggest project aiming at removing cataract for the poorest: through a ten minute microsurgery with articial lens implantation.

The project is extraordinary and has been documented in media all over the world. My favorite aspects of it are:

  • The lenses used by the doctor are produced in Tilganga in Kathmandu, Nepal, bringing their costs down from 100 dollars to around 3.5 per piece.
  • The surgery lasts around five minutes per eye, and can be delivered almost anywhere. I saw a documentary about Dr Ruit and his visits in the Himalayan villages, where he opened pop-up clinics and treated dozens of people a day; for most of these people ability to see is crucial not only to their own well-being, but also the condition of the family, which needs their working hands;
  • His lenses have 98% success rate, same as sophisticated and expensive surgeries delivered in USA (using equipment for 1 million dollars)
  • The doctor himself has cured around 120.000 people
  • By funding Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, Dr. Ruit created a whole system that provides patients with complete eye care - and the fees that better-off patients pay for their services finance the free surgeries for the others;
  • In Tilganga they also manufacture eye prosthetic which has similar quality with those produced in the West, but costs 3 dollars, instead of 150.

This simple idea turned out incredibly effective and is tested now in other countries.

I like most the idea of going where the biggest need is

Wow, they set up surgery camps in the most remote areas. “All of his equipment fits in just one yellow duffel bag” - it feels like a dream to be able / allowed to do this ad hoc in first world countries.

20 years later, their model seems basic yet very advanced, working at scale - they’ve built up a huge network of partnerships, residencies, training camps, on-site mentoring, volunteers exchange programs.

Have you met anyone in Nepal involved in this @Natalia_Skoczylas?

So is it problem solved?

“Within a matter of hours, the team can turn a dusty schoolhouse, or whatever building is available, into an equivalent medical ward where sight-restoring surgery is carried out to comparable standards found in the developed world.” (source)

This looks like a good fit for community-driven care. You still need ophtalmologists, but the infrastructure around the treatment is minimal and can be conjured by communities. So… is it happening?

The SEVA Foundation

has been working to save eyesight in Nepal for many years.  SEVA was co-founded by Dr. Larry Brilliant, who co-founded The WELL.  I don’t know if they work directly with Dr. Ruit, but it would not surprise me.

From the SEVA website, "Since 1978, Seva has worked with partners in Nepal to develop a network of eye care providers and services. Seva Nepal, a local Seva Foundation office, supports continuing medical education, professional training, and provides surgical equipment and supplies, all of which serve to increase the quality of patient care.

All aspects of Seva Nepal’s programs serve to build the capacity of local hospitals to deliver high quality, sustainable eye care. By equipping our partners with the tools they need to provide quality, efficient services, Seva builds locally-run eye care programs that are self-sustaining within 5-10 years of establishment."

FYI this is a finalist project at 100andChange

Well spotted @Natalia_Skoczylas :slight_smile: I was looking at the list of finalists for the competition by MacArthur and guess what: OpenandChange didn’t go through (bummer!), but a global version of this project is included, as expected, with the Tilganga Institute as partner. Niceee.

Here are all the 8 finalists.