As many of you may know, Nana’s House in conjunction with our partner organization are holding a health camp in Leknath,Nepal on October 18th. Every single person who attends our camp will receive a free check up and any medicine as needed. Also provided with be a gynecologist and a pediatrician for women and children. Leknath is a very rural village, almost 1 hour away from any hospital or medical center and is a very hard place to reach as the last twenty drive is a dirt road only accessible by 4 wheel drive vehicles.
I would like to share with you a piece written by Nana’s House president, Judy Schumann, on the current state of healthcare in Nepal and why Health Camps are vital in maintaining a healthy population in these rural villages.
THE STATUS OF HEALTHCARE IN NEPAL
Judy Schumann, President Nana’s House Board of Directors
As I sit here awaiting the outcome of my sister’s surgery, I expect only good news. After all, she is being operated on by three of the best surgeons available in their respective fields of expertise and in a state-of-the art medical center. Reflecting back on my observations of healthcare while visiting in Nepal I am acutely aware of how this differs from my experiences there. Lack of basic health knowledge and available healthcare as well as many superstitions surrounding health contribute to the crisis which exists in that country. Nana’s House and our partner organization, Hope Nepal, are holding a health clinic on October 18th in Lehknath, a rural mountain village, to improve health conditions there.
The United Nations ranks Nepal 139th in the world for human development, well behind India and Bangladesh. Over half the population lives in abject poverty and this is mostly concentrated in the remote mountain villages. In these villages, government health post are unstaffed and under supplied for years at a time. Nutrition is poor and vaccination rates are low or non-existent. The U.N. states that the 1999 ‘Local Self Governance Act” put into place to improve health, drinking water and rural infrastructure has resulted in no notable improvement. The Nepal government spends an average of $2.30 (U.S.) per capita on healthcare. A new budget increases this amount but has not yet taken effect. A report from the U.S. Library of Congress Research Division attributes 30% of the total amount spent on healthcare for Nepali citizens in the country comes from foreign donors.
According to the World Health Organization only one-third of births are attended by a skilled professional (physician, nurse or trained midwife). A United Nations report from November 14, 2012 puts the maternal death rate at 1 in 80 births nationwide and far higher in the poverty stricken villages. Skilled professionals (all inclusive-not just physicians) are less than one per 10,000 people.
UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) statistics for children under five years of age in Nepal state that up to seventy-five percent (75%) are malnourished due to lack of dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables and protein in their diets. Fifty-two percent (52%) are categorized as stunted and one in ten (10%) are considered wasted (near starvation and death). Less than seven percent (7%) of children with suspected pneumonia ever receive treatment.
Even where excellent healthcare is available, shortcuts are taken due to lack of funding. Krishna Timilsina, the director of our partner organization, Hope Nepal, shared information from Fred Aakerlund after he visited the Western Regional Hospital of Nepal. This is a large, modern teaching hospital which also has an affiliated medical school. While in the NCU (Neonatal Care Unit) Fred observed plastic gloves being washed and reused due to the lack availability. This is not acceptable under any circumstances, but even more dangerous in the NCU where these fragile babies are more susceptible to infections which can lead to death.
I personally experienced hesitation by those caring for children in allowing them to play outside because of the belief that getting hot and sweaty while playing soccer or cricket would cause them to become ill. Superstitions meant the children were no longer allowed to play in a field across from the orphanage where they lived because a child had died there and the evil spirits that remained could make them sick or worse. It was preferable to keep the windows and curtains closed to keep ghosts and evil out instead of allowing clean fresh air to flow through the house. There seemed to be no connection between the children’s toothbrushes all being stored in the same cup or a common pitcher of water being passed around and shared by many at a school function and the resulting illnesses.
I saw my empty water bottle refilled from a faucet and placed on the table in a restaurant to be used for communal drinking. While suffering from a bad respiratory infection I visited a pharmacy (basically located in a roadside shack). The employee there asked me what I wanted. Literally, what I wanted. Fortunately I knew which antibiotic to request and the correct dosage to take. One of the younger volunteers had been given Valium for her infection the day before. We quickly corrected that for her!
I have received word from my sister’s husband that the surgery went better than expected and she will soon be well and healthy again. How grateful I am that she has this kind of care and how determined I am to do what I can through Nana’s House to bring better healthcare and an improved quality of life to those who don’t. Please do whatever you can to help Nana’s House ease this crisis situation for those we can.
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