Nepal falls short on ‘right to sight’ goal

Kathmandu, October 12

Nepal has fallen a long way short on its commitment to eliminate ‘avoidable vision defect’ by 2020, a proclamation the country made in 1999, with now just three years to go.

Nepal had joined  a joint programme of World Health Organisation and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness called ‘Vision 2020: The Right to Sight’ back in 1999.

With the 2020 deadline for meeting the target approaching, only 25 per cent of the country’s total patients with curable vision problems have so far received treatment, according to a report by Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, Kathmandu.

It is estimated that more than 100,000people in Nepal have some degree of blindness, with almost 67 % per cent of them having curable vision defects.

According to TIO, the lack of interest in people especially the elderly and people from remote parts of the country to go to hospital for treatment is a major reason for Nepal not being able to reach the goal.

Dr Rohit Sainju, Deputy Director of TIO, however, said the rate of people visiting hospitals and healthcare centres for the treatment has dramatically increased in the past few years and that the ongoing treatment rate was satisfactory.  “We must say that we have achieved a significant success rate in treating people with vision defect. We have been able to bring down the blindness prevalence rate from 0.84 per cent in 1981 to 0.35 per cent in 2012,” Dr Sainju said.

Bhagwan Singh Thapa, 75, from Kathmandu was diagnosed with Cataract and Glaucoma complications that could led to the loss of up to 70 per cent of observing ability. He only visited hospital after it became painfully difficult for him to see. Doctors involved in his case said, “The problem would have been cured if he had visited hospital, earlier.”

In Nepal, 65 per cent of vision defects are caused by cataract (a small white dot around iris), nine per cent by retinal problems and five per cent by Glaucoma.