Bhutan

Research

Childhood Blindness Study 2012

Sight For All conducted a study of the causes of visual impairment and blindness at Bhutan’s School for the Blind in November 2012. Sight For All’s Australian team worked with with their Bhutanese colleagues from Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital to collect data from the schoolchildren at the National Institute for Visually Impaired (NIVI) in Khaling, the first ophthalmic epidemiological study ever undertaken in the country. Half of all children had avoidable blindness. The team found that the leading causes of blindness in children were hereditary in nature. The team also took genetic samples from many of the children in an attempt to understand the genetic basis of their eye diseases and hopefully one day eliminate unavoidable childhood blindness. It was the first genetic study ever undertaken in Bhutan.

Low vision spectacles and aids were also prescribed to many of the visually impaired children to allow them to read better and thereby enhance their education at the school.

A big thank you to the hard-working team that included Dr Dechen Wangmo (paediatric ophthalmologist) and Mr Abi Khatiwara (orthoptist) from Bhutan, Prof Jamie Craig, Dr James Muecke and Dr Adam Rudkin (Australian ophthalmologists) and Mr Andy Griffiths (Australian optometrist).

Education

Sight For All delivers educational support to ophthalmic colleagues at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in the capital Thimpu. The Ophthalmology Department was created in 1987 and today has three ophthalmologists and their ophthalmic assistants.

Low Vision Course

Dr Dechen Wangmo (paediatric ophthalmologist) and Mr Abi Khatiwara (orthoptist) undertook Sight For All’s Low Vision Course at Royal Society for the Blind and the South Australian School for Vision Impaired in Adelaide in November 2011. Since their return to Bhutan, they have been establishing the country’s first disability service for adults and children who are visually impaired.

Fellowships

Dr Deki Deki completed a 12-month hands-on glaucoma fellowship across three hospitals in Adelaide in March 2013. She has since returned to Bhutan as the first glaucoma specialist in her country. Thank you to the Australian Government’s “Australian Award Fellowships” scheme for sponsoring this high impact sustainable initiative.

Infrastructure

In September 2014, Sight For All donated equipment to improve the management of glaucoma at Gelefu Eye Centre in Central Bhutan. This included the purchase of a Humphrey Visual Field Analyser to assist in the early detection and treatment of patients with Glaucoma. This vital piece of equipment was purchased with support from the Australia Government through the Direct Aid Program.