Seeing is believingTilganga is renowned internationally for its excellent and affordable eye care services.
It is extremely heartening to know that the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology has been recognised as a World Health Organisation collaborating centre for eye care in Nepal. This is an impressive achievement as Tilganga is now one of 573 collaborating centres of the UN health agency across the world. The institute for long had been serving as a knowledge-sharing platform catering mainly to community ophthalmology professionals from the global South.
The Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology was founded in 1994. Dr Sanduk Ruit, also known as the ‘god of sight’ helped found the institute and now serves as its executive director. Since then, the doctor who pioneered small incision cataract surgery has worked tirelessly to expand the institute from a small facility with a mere 12 employees to a large state-of-the-art institution with over 400 employees that provides services to over 400,000 eye patients annually—in just about two decades. Dr Ruit has helped open eye centres in all 77 districts and community eye hospitals based on the Tilganga model in Hetauda, Biratnagar, Dhangadhi, Nepalgunj and Lumbini.
The institute is renowned internationally for its excellent and affordable eye care services; training programmes for eye care personnel at all levels; high-volume, high-quality outreach work; and a profitable intraocular lens manufacturing factory. What’s more, Tilganga serves as the region’s first and only eye bank. It is also the only institution in the country that is largely self-sustained as it runs on the social entrepreneurship model with a sliding scale payment system, where those who can afford treatment pay more than the less privileged. Therefore, it has rightfully earned its place as the first health facility in Nepal to attain the status of a World Health Organisation collaborating centre.
The Nepal Blind Survey, a nation-wide population-based survey on blindness and visual impairment, was done in 1980-81. It was one of the first countries to do so. The survey showed that 0.8 percent of the population was blind then. Cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, and Nepal is no exception as cataract was the cause in 72 percent of the cases followed by trachoma. Currently, the prevalence of blindness has decreased to 0.3 percent despite the population having doubled.
The Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology is the epitome of what a state of motivation and passion can lead to. A high rate of poverty, illiteracy, and physical geography are the three factors that have primarily impacted the state of health in Nepal. But Tilganga and the people who are part of the institution have risen above the obstacles to become an internationally leading eye care centre. The government should work towards making available nutrients and procedures that prevent blindness in every corner of Nepal. Without the support of the state, such institutions may not last to continue their work into the future.
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