The INF team working in Pokhara hospitals in the early 1990’s recognised that there was a significant need to take care to the people in the remoter areas in the West of Nepal.
In 1993 the first ear camp was taken to Beni. At that time it was a rough drive followed by a series of porters to reach Beni district hospital (it now it has a good road and only takes about 4 hours from Pokhara). They wondered how many patients might turn up- however they never looked back! The International Nepal Fellowship Ear Camps ran at least twice a year from 1993 to 2015.
Most districts in all three western regions of Nepal have been visited, some several times. The camps continued all through the political instabilities and roadblocks. There were many ‘interesting’ transportation issues involving porters, mules, mud, floods, landslides, breakdowns and remote airfields reached by elderly planes and helicopters.
There have been over 50 Ear camps, with tens of thousands of out- patients seen, many medicines supplied, thousands of middle ear operations done and many hearing aids fitted.
A small team at the start, we learnt as we went along and developed into a large full time team composed of members based in Nepal and a large number of visiting specialists. The ear camp project expanded to such an extent that INF was able to support a dedicated camps team who also ran medical camps in other medical disciplines, particularly women’s health.
By this time ear camps were supported by a visiting team of 4 surgeons, 3 anaesthetists, 3 audiologists, 1 or 2 other doctors and a number of nurses. The resources to run such camps were considerable and based entirely on charitable donations.
Changes in the law affecting the volunteer workforce, finding the resources needed to run a major camp, and the development of the Ear Treatment and Training Centre meant that camps as they were run in the past became non- viable.
As the ETTC becomes more established a new mode of Community Ear Care Outreach services is being developed and will provide outpatient care to remoter areas, identify patients in need of surgery and manage referral pathways back to Pokhara or elsewhere. EAN provides some financial support to these patients through the ‘Medical Charity Fund’ to help them access care at the Ear Centre.