Eye Care Against All Odds

April 2020

Although the COVID-19 lockdown has limited our strides in Nepal, Orbis stands together with its partners in their efforts to fight avoidable blindness during such trying times.

Covid-19 and Nepal

Nepal is among some of the fortunate countries with below 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Nevertheless, the government of Nepal, much like the Indian government, took the difficult step of announcing a nationwide lockdown to ensure that its citizens are safe. But it comes with its shortcomings – major issues being access to basic health care, including eye health. However, Orbis’s partner eye hospitals in Nepal continue to serve the community by providing emergency services.

Access to Eye Care in the Nick of Time!

Sharban, a five year old from Lahan waited for six days before his father could find transport and an eye hospital to take him to with his eye condition. With limited resources at his disposal, Sharban's father did not know how to address his son’s problem. A family member told him about Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital. Sharban had been affected with a blunt eye injury – something that his parents failed to notice early on. As days passed by, Sharban complained of eye pain and his father realized that the little boy had an eye problem.

As soon as he noticed his son’s eye condition, Sharban’s father thought of rushing to the hospital but did not find immediate public transport service. Not only that, he was not aware if any hospital would be open for his child’s treatment during the nationwide lockdown. Access to basic services remain a challenge for families like Sharban’s.

Although nine individuals with prior travel history had been reported to be suspected COVID-19 patients in Lahan, their test results were negative. The situation in every part of Nepal is similar to the situation in most parts of the world – social distancing is the best way to keep off the virus for now. So, Lahan, where Sharban lives, was no different. Due to the lockdown, Sharban’s father had to wait to be able to arrange transport and visit Orbis partner, Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital (SCEH).

Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital

Until he reached the facility, he was not sure of the fact that the hospital was open. Due to the lockdown, there was very limited information on what services were accessible and like any other parent, Sharban’s father was also worried whether stepping out of their home would be fruitful. Thankfully for him, the hospital was open and Sharban’s eye condition was addressed soon after it was diagnosed.

Once Sharban’s eye problem was addressed, his father felt happy, relieved and, more importantly, satisfied when he was told by the doctor that his son’s vision would remain unaffected. The speedy treatment and care that his son received made him feel that even during such trying times, there are hospitals that are doing their duty towards patients who really need it. What made him feel even better is that the services came at subsidized rates and in keeping with his ability to pay for the services. Hospitals like Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital have been working to keep their services accessible to people and children from all walks of life. Given the current situation and limited resources, the effort of SCEH.

Hospital team attending to emergency cases

The Orbis partner has been attending emergency cases in keeping with the WHO and government protocols and ensuring that people and children in desperate need of treatment receive it at the earliest even during these unprecedented times. Apart from following the protocols, the hospital also put in effort to produce awareness posters and materials which were put up across the hospital for patient information and safety.

Awareness generation flex and posters around the hospital entrance

Hope, Happiness and Moving Forward

Sharban’s father returned from the hospital with new-found contentment and happiness and even said that if he would see anyone else facing eye conditions that need immediate attention, he would definitely send them to Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital.

Orbis partners with several eye hospitals in Nepal through its collaboration with Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh. Orbis worked with Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh to implement the National Program for Control of Childhood Blindness between 2010-2017 during which it supported SCEH to refurbish its pediatric center which serves children in Lahan. Before the COVID-19 situation arose, Orbis had been working with SCEH and three other partners to deliver quality eye care to school going children through the REACH (Refractive Error Among CHildren) program. Although our regular activities with SCEH have come to a halt for the time being, our partner hospitals continue to move forward in their mission-to provide eye care to individuals and children in desperate need. Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital is one such partner who is taking the mission forward.