March 2018 Relief Web
Ear Care Nepal is a group that is bringing healthcare to rural areas of mountainous Nepal. Nepal has one of the highest rates of disabling hearing loss in the world, and over half of these cases are seen in school-aged children and are mostly preventable. Hearing loss in children is especially impactful because it can lead to halted educational and social progress that can affect them for the rest of their lives.
Leaving her former job as an ear surgeon at a Kathmandu hospital, Dr. Milan Maharjan founded Ear Care Nepal and has since devoted her career to eradicating childhood hearing loss and deafness. Through their school-based screening programs, Ear Care Nepal has screened over 45,000 children throughout the country, providing hearing restoration surgery and rehabilitation to over 600 children and changing their lives forever.
Recently the Ear Care Nepal team was in action on a school screening mission at the Chotidada primary school, where many children were screened for hearing loss. In less than 20 minutes, the Ear Care Nepal team left the bustling urban landscape of the Kathmandu Valley and began the journey into the mountainous and inaccessible Lalitpur district. The endlessly winding dirt road climbed further into the sky, through the clouds, with steep drop-offs on either side of the roadway.
Situated on the crest of a cloud-covered mountain, we arrived at the small Tamang community of Chotidada. The Tamang ethnic group, believed to be migrants from the Tibetan plateau, are a historically marginalised caste in Nepal, suffering worse poverty rates than the rest of the country, which leaves them more susceptible to health issues, such as ear infections.
The public-school “screen, evaluate, teach” methodology was selected because it’s the best way to assess as many children as possible in one place at the same time. Teachers and parents are invited to the schools beforehand to learn proper ear and sinus health for their children. One of the major causes of ear infections in Nepal comes from the use of a traditional oil to clean out the ear canal. This oil can lead to chronic ear infections, and in some cases, deafness. Poor hygiene, such as bathing in dirty water, can also lead to ear and sinus infections.
It took a few hours to screen 46 children in the five-room primary school, all the children left with smiles after receiving pencils, bracelets and a small Ear Care Nepal picture book on ear and sinus hygiene. Out of the 46 children screened, four were identified as requiring ear surgery with Dr. Maharjan. With parental permission, the Ear Care Nepal team will arrange transportation for the children and their guardians to Nidan Hospital in Kathmandu for ear surgery and rehabilitation.