Whether playing barefoot along dirt roads, chasing after chickens, or helping their parents by milking the family yak, their smiles are full of hope for the future.
You may also notice that very few of these children are wearing eyeglasses.
Most children in Nepal have simply never had their eyes examined – something that would be routine in much of the United States.
With your generous support, you are helping Seva change this by building a robust and sustainable pediatric eye care system in Nepal. This is extremely important because we know that approximately 330,000 Nepali children are currently in need of eyeglasses due to refractive error. An additional 90,000 have low vision that goes beyond what can be corrected with glasses and 30,000 Nepali children are blind primarily from causes that could have been prevented or treated. These statistics are a consequence of underfunded health care systems that are common in resource-poor countries.
"The current situation for an average child living in rural Nepal is dire," explains Seva’s Medical Director, Dr. Chundak Tenzing. "Blindness in childhood is seen as a curse in these communities. Blind children have limited opportunities to go to school and their mortality rates are higher."
As part of Seva's efforts to expand access to pediatric eye care, and with the generous support of donors like you, we have recently supported the opening of a brand new state-of-the-art pediatric eye unit in Bharatpur, Nepal.
"Seva has partnered with the Bharatpur Eye Hospital actively since 1998 to strengthen its capacity to provide high-volume and high-quality eye care services that are sustainable," explains Dr. Suzanne Gilbert, Senior Director of Seva’s Innovation and Sight Program.
Each year, the Bharatpur Eye Hospital provides eye examinations for about 100,000 people and performs 8,000 cataract surgeries. With its new pediatric eye unit, the hospital will make sight-saving services available to Nepal’s children. "Seva has provided training and equipment to enable the hospital to serve children with quality eye care," notes Dr. Gilbert. "Children are served at the hospital regardless of their families' ability to pay. The hospital has a very strong commitment to ensuring that the most vulnerable members of the community – the children – have easy access to care."
The new pediatric eye unit provides a wide range of services for children, including diagnostic services and medical and surgical treatment. As part of the hospital's community engagement, they also provide active school screenings to identify children with eye problems and refer them for treatment.
The focus on children is so important because vision lost by a child is vision lost for a lifetime.
Seva is grateful to all of our donors, including USAID’s Child Blindness Project, who make this important work possible. Your donations are changing the lives of children in need each and every day.
An estimated 1.4 million children live with blindness around the world and another 19 million are visually impaired. Most of these kids live in areas of the world where even the most basic eye care services continue to be out of reach. Combatting child blindness is one of the most cost effective health interventions and kids who have their sight restored are given an average of 50 years of sight.
In less time than it takes to read this article, a child will lose their eyesight. One every minute. The child will likely be living in poverty, struggling for survival in one of the many parts of the world where access to even the most basic of eye care services continue to be out of reach.
"Just thinking about the kids out there that can't see, I just couldn't imagine not being able to see and I really hope that I can help change that for a lot of kids," says Nikolas.
Seva is excited to announce the launch of our new Buy a Frame, Help a Child to See program in partnership with the eyewear brand Bio Eyes. Through sales from this line of eco-friendly eyewear, Bio Eyes will support Seva's efforts to screen the eyes of 200,000 school children in India.
For nearly 20 years, Seva has been dedicated to building sustainable pediatric eye care programs in Cambodia - programs that provide sight-saving care to children in need throughout the country.
If you have the opportunity to travel to Nepal, a country where 33% of the population is under the age of 14, you will surely notice the smiling faces of children everywhere you go. You may also notice that very few of these children are wearing eyeglasses.
The Fund for Women and Girls supports a variety of innovative programs and partnerships that are improving access to eye care for women and girls around the globe.
Your support of this innovative campaign made it possible for Seva to train 40 teachers in Cambodia who are screening the eyes of 29,000 students for visual impairment. These efforts are identifying children who need of glasses and sight-saving medical care, like sweet 7-year-old Bopha who is featured in this video.
This past February, a rural school in Cambodia experienced firsthand how the support and compassion of Seva donors, combined with a few dashes of serendipity, changed the lives of the students and teachers forever.