Community Health Volunteer Brings Vital Eye Care to Rural Nepal
Fifty-five-year-old Bhawani Situla has lived in the rural village of Shantibazar in Bharatpur, Nepal, for the past 40 years. She works as a farmworker and has three children – two boys and one girl. She also has two grandchildren and loves spending time with them.
In March 2022, she was working in her field when her left eye was grazed by the sharp blade of a leaf. Unfortunately, she was alone in the field and there was no one to help her. Her eye became teary and red. She was in pain.
Then she remembered that their local Female Community Health Volunteer (FCHV), Januka, is competent to take care of eye issues. Januka was trained by SightLife in 2017 to identify and provide early treatment for corneal injuries and infections, under the Corneal Blindness Prevention program.
Bhawani called Januka and immediately went to her home. Januka screened the affected eye and saw that Bhawani had suffered a corneal abrasion. Januka prescribed a topical antibiotic for nine days. On the fourth day when she came for a repeat check-up, her eye had completely healed. She thanked Januka, who informed her that under the Prevention program, if an injury cannot be treated at primary care level, she could go to secondary or tertiary care centers in the area.
Bhawani mentioned that in her past 40 years in the village, she had never seen any awareness program on eye care in the area.
“They used to directly go the chemist and buy medicines without any prescription or go to traditional healers who mostly made the case worse. But SightLife’s Prevention program and its association with Bharatpur Eye hospital has enabled doorstep eye care services, which has really helped people,” she said.
“Had I not been treated by the local FCHV and received timely intervention, the problem could have advanced to a higher stage requiring more hospital visits, frequent medications and even hospitalization. Further, I would be dependent on one of my family members to take me to a nearby clinic where I would have had to spend on transportation, doctor fee, medication (approx. 2500 NPR) which is too much for us,” remarked a thankful Bhawani.
“Earlier there was no such training provided to FCHVs on eye care and until SightLife’s program came about, eye care remained an entirely foreign subject for us. Such a program becomes a critical one for Bharatpur since it is a heavy agricultural belt and most injuries happen in the eyes while farming. We are also equally grateful to SightLife for giving us this opportunity to be at the service of the community,” she said.
In 2021, FCHVs detected 2,117 eye injuries in 12 Village Development Committees of Chitwan and Nawalpur districts in Nepal. It is in such remote regions that the essence of eye care programs get demonstrated, saving eyes, lives, and costs.