Building anything in the 'Hidden Himalayas' is no easy task. Its remoteness and lack of roads makes progress a slow business often compounded by monsoon rains and harsh winters. However, the local communities have drive and ambition to improve their lives and are willing to work hard towards that end. All infrastructure projects implemented by the Nepal Trust require a certain level of committment by the local communities so they have a feeling of pride and ownership. As well as financial inputs they may be required to dig trenches, build walls, collect stone and timber but they do this willingly and with gusto.
Our most recent health project involves the construction of three strategically positioned Birthing Centres to give women a safe place to get help, advice and clean facilities to give birth to their babies. This has never been available before and mothers have often had to give birth in outhouses and other unsafe places.
The two Centres at Bargaun and Sarkegad are both up and running successfully. A Community awareness programme has started at Sarkegad to inform villagers about natal and baby care and how the new Birthing centre can benefit them.
The third Centre at Yari in north Humla is well under way. The building is nearing completion and fitting out will start very soon. Staff have been recruited and are, meanwhile, working in other clinics to build local knowledge and experience.
Elsewhere, water, sanitation and health (WASH) posters have been printed and distributed to local schools. This is complementary to our Little Doctors programme (LD) and will ensure that all pupils receive some education and training about basic hygiene and health care. Three LD courses have been successfully delivered in 2015 in the villages of Simikot, Bargaun and Yalbang.
Thank you to all our supporters for everything you do to help our cause. Nothing can be done without you and you are an integral part of the vision of a healthy and prosperous life in the remote 'Hidden Himalayas'. Please pass your encouragement to others.
Although Humla and the Hidden Himalayas escaped the worst of the recent devastating earthquake concerns remain and local people remain vigilant. Tremors occur and there is a strong belief that the next 'big one' will be in the west.
However, life must go on as people go about their daily business and domestic chores. Slowly, but surely, life is improving in this remote corner of the world and the Nepal Trust has contributed to this in no small way. Its health programmes linked to renewable energy initiatives, income generation, agricultural improvements and education are having a considerable impact by raising general health and living standards.
For the very first time pregnant mothers have clean and qualified facilities for giving birth under safe conditions. Our new Birthing Centre initiative is now functioning with qualified staff.
Bargaun: A new ANM (Aux Nurse Midwife), Mrs Nabina Lama is now working in the centre alongside Healthworker Yangzum Lama. The Centre is fully functioning and the local health committee will hold an inauguration ceremony later this year - no doubt with great festivity.
Sarkegad: The new Birthing Centre is now complete and the adjoining health clinic fully renovated. A water supply has been restored and installed. It is hoped that the Centre will be operational by next month when a new ANM is recruited.
Yari: Local building materials (wood, stone,etc) have been collected. Foundations will be laid soon and, hopefully, building work will be completed by the end of 2015. A health assistant (Mrs Jigme Doma Lama) has been recruited. Currently she is assisting at our Yalbang clinic to develop more knowledge and skills. More staff will be recruited when the Centre is ready to open its doors.
Our Little Doctors Health programme for young students goes from strength to strength. This health education initiative teaches young students (10-15 years) the basics of good personal health care, domestic issues and family planning. The students pass their knowledge on to parents, siblings and other family members to eventually remove some traditional beliefs and improve general health practices. This year we have supported 3 programmes in Simikot, Bargaun and Yalbang involving a total of 66 students.
Attached to this report is our latest newsletter Namaste. Although this issue heavily features our involvement in earthquake relief it also updates our other work in health and education.
Thank you all for your support for our work. We could do little without your help. We hope you can continue to provide support and please let your friends and colleagues know about us.
With our best wishes. Namaste!
Nepal is now synonymous with earthqake disaster and the devastation it has caused over large areas of the country. Whole villages have been wiped out and thousands have died. However some areas remote from the epicentre have suffered less or hardly at all and our project in the Hidden Himalayas - the district of Humla - is one of these. Aftershocks and minor tremors continue and everyone has to remain aware.
Our new Birthing Centres are progressing well despite the havoc caused by the earthquake and Bargaun is fully kitted out and will be operational by this June. All equipment has been purchased and sent to the Sarkegad centre which should be operational in a few months.
Construction of the Yari centre has started. A young Health Assistant from the local community, Ms Jigme Doma Lama, has been recruited. Until the new Birthing Clinic is operational she will work at the Yalbang and Muchu clinics. Her story is interesting:
'Ms Jigme Doma Lama, 20 years old, comes from a farming family of Muchu village ward no: 6, Humla. It was difficult for her family to sustain life but her parents encouraged her to study and she graduated her school leaving certificate from Manasarovar High School in Simikot. Since her child hood, she had witnessed difficulties of her family and community in getting proper health services as the government health post in nearby villages never had staff working in them. These people were from outside and did not want to stay in the village due to remoteness and other reasons. She therefore always wanted to study medicine and help her community and family. But while in school, her father had an accident during farm work and became disabled due to lack of treatment. She therefore faced even more financial difficulties in her further studies. But she was determined and with the help of relatives and friends, she managed to enroll in a Health Assistant course (a three years’ medical course) in Kathmandu. She successfully graduated, did a six months’ internship and when looking for a job opportunity to work in Humla, she got in contact with the Nepal Trust office.
She is happy now that she has been chosen as a HA health worker in Nepal Trust health program in Yari and upper Humla. She is happy to serve her community with her skills and is looking forward to fulfilling her child hood dream. But at the same time she also looks forward to further trainings in future to serve the people more effectively.'
This lovely story illustrates the importance of encouraging local involvement and pride in these remote communities. People sent to work there from other areas find it difficult to live in a community with a different language and culture.
Thank you to all our donors and supporters for your continuing help and well wishes. We hope you will continue with us and share the story with your friends. The people of the Hidden Himalayas are very self reliant and survive most of what nature throws at them but they need that little help and support to make the next step up the ladder.
It has been a particularly long hard winter with heavy snowfalls blocking the high passes and trails. Life goes on albeit with limited manoeuvreability. The clinics continue to function and the two new Birthing Centres at Bargaun and Sarkegad will soon be fully functioning and helping to reduce the very high infant mortality rates in this remote corner of the world. A third Birthing Centre at Yari has a funding shortfall and can only start once the gap is filled. A summary of clinic records can be found at the bottom of this report. As always, the principal health problems are mainly intestinal, respitory and skin disorders normally as the result of poor hygiene. This is where our Little Doctors programme is making a difference by teaching young schoolchildren the elements of good health which they are then encouraged to pass on to other members of their families.
At this point it is worth considering the role of health care in these isolated and remote areas. There is little doubt that focusing on health is very important and saves lives but by itself and without sustainable economic development the future will remain bleak and lead to increased migration away to better economic opportunities. That is why the Nepal Trust operates in a fully integrated way to create opportunities for an economically better lifestyle. In partnership with our health initiatives we have focussed on renewable clean energy by building a number of hydro electric schemes and solar energy schemes. These together with energy efficient cooking stoves also help to reduce respitory diseases caused by oily lamps and smoky fires. We have, so far, improved living conditions for over 10000 people and 1500 households. Our new RE Service Centre is providing a support service and skilled job opportunities for local people.
As old economic systems collapse new ones have to be created to retain and support the population. Income generation is, therefore, very important. For a number of years the Nepal Trust has been helping to develop and support the Great Himalayan Trail (GHT), now one of the great trekking trails of the world, to bring tourism to this previously unknown corner of Nepal. The impact is huge as new lodges, guesthouses and campsites pop up. We continue to support this exciting initiative through a major project to help small farmers learn new methods and develop fresh ideas for agricultural production to meet the new demands of increased tourism.
There is little doubt that heritage and culture help to bind a society and keep it together. The rich history and culture of north west Nepal - the Hidden Himalayas - is unique and of major importance. The Trust has supported it in many ways. The rebuilding of Raling Gompa, so important to Buddhists and Hindus. The renovation of Halji Gompa in the beautiful Limi valley - probably the oldest gompa in Nepal and the renovation of the gompa at Muchu on the main trekking trail to holy Mount Kailash in Tibet. A healthy mind and soul helps towards a healthier lifestyle.
These are some examples of how the Trust is helping the local people to develop economically and eventually support themselves in a new and vibrant society. A new road is slowly creeping down from Tibet and will, no doubt, have a major impact but it will be many years yet before completion. Meanwhile as our project title says, we create new opportunities to help raise living standards. It is no great benefit to make someone better if they have no money to purchase a bar of soap and so the cycle starts over again!
Food and nutrition insecurity is a persisting public health threat in developing countries and at the same time a complex field to study. Food security is all about the basic human rights of food, care and health.
The ‘Asia Enigma’ or, food scarcity and malnutrition amidst plenty, is a problem in South Asia, from which women and children suffer the most. Nepal, at the World Food Summit in 1996, aimed to reduce the number of undernourished people by 50% by the year 2015. The food security situation is improving but one third of the households in the mountains experience inadequate food consumption compared to the rest of Nepal.
Nepal is currently the third poorest country in Asia after India and Bangladesh;Humla, a post-conflict area that was heavily affected by the Maoist insurgency and where the Nepal Trust has been working for over 20 years throughout the conflict, is one of the poorest districts in Nepal and thus in the world. Combined with its harsh climate and the fact that only 1-2% of the land is arable, Humla is a highly food insecure area which relies on food assistance and subsidies (mainly rice) from the Nepalese government and its development partners. Today the consequences of the conflict can still be felt and combined with the food security situation it complicates the health situation and living circumstances of the people of Humla.
In addition, Humla faces many problems in the area of health, which is mirrored in the high rates of infectious diseases, nutritional disorders and maternal and perinatal diseases. It has a relatively high fertility rate compared to the rest of Nepal (6.2 vs. 2.7 respectively). High fertility is often linked to maternal mortality in the prenatal and postnatal stage, but especially during childbirth. Reasons are low access to good quality care before, during and after pregnancy and the fact that only 2% of the births are attended by a skilled nurse. Women are normally expected to give birth outside the home often in outbuildings or cowsheds
Moreover, many women continue to keep working during pregnancy and lactation which increases the chance of serious health problems. Maternal mortality is closely linked to malnutrition, also considering that the period of pregnancy and lactation requires more nutritious food. Risks of malnutrition for girls and women prevent them from reaching their full growth potential, and they will, thus, be deprived for the rest of their lives.
Nutritionally stunted mothers have a higher risk of giving birth to low weight babies and statistics from the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey show that over one third of the women of reproductive age in Humla were anaemic and more than 20% were underweight. 60% of children under five years old were stunted, 15% severely underweight, and 53% anaemic. In addition, under-five mortality rates are extraordinarily high, with over 40% of the children dying before they they reach the age of five.
Women in general are often being disfavored in terms of food allocation, especially in their reproductive years, when their social status is low. Combined with the pressure to marry and work hard, female adolescents and menstruating, pregnant and lactating women are often the ones that are most disadvantaged.
As part of our health strategy to focus on these high-risk groups in Humla (especially women and children) the Nepal Trust has currently started to build a chain of birthing centers, linked to our already established health posts, with the aim to tackle these high infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rates and to decrease the number of women that take themselves into cow sheds to give birth to their babies.
As good nutrition is, amongst other factors, the basis for maternal health child, and infant feeding and caring practices are the basis for good child health. So it is important to take this into account in order optimize the functioning of these birthing clinics, primary health care services and food security programs. As detailed information is often lacking about the health and nutritional status of women and their children and also to gain better insight into problems women face before, during and after childbirth, we are currently conducting a detailed study to address these issues.
Donya Madjdian, a masters student in Health and Society, from the department of Sociology of Consumption and Households at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands is currently doing her research internship at the Nepal Trust whereby her main assignment is to conduct a comprehensive study related to Gender, Family and Intra-household Allocation of Food patterns in Humla as part of her masters course.
The overall goal of this study is to gain insights into the relationship between intra-household allocation of food including feeding practices of infants, and the under nutrition of women of reproductive age and infants in two villages in Humla, in order to optimize the functioning of birthing clinics and food and nutrition security programmes, with the ultimate aim to improve the health and nutritional status of Humli women of reproductive age and their children.
Donya has spent several months in Humla, and is currently working on her final report. In Humla Donya was assisted by Yeshi Lama, a female student who is currently studying in Kathmandu and who hails from Bargaun village in Humla, where we are currently constructing our first birthing center, for translating interviews and to be introduced to the communities. Donya and Yeshi travelled to various villages to gather valuable information and stayed at home-stays (developed by the Nepal Trust as part of our tourism development program) throughout their stay, which provided Donya a great insight into the daily lives of local families and to learn more about their culture and traditions.
Below are some words from Donya on what inspired her to come to Humla;
“During my studies I learned to see health from a holistic point of view taking into account different perspectives. We learned to study the often-complex interactions between the social and physical environment of individuals and communities that might influence health behaviour and lifestyles. Gradually, I found out that I would love to work at the interface of global health and development cooperation. In addition, I spent a considerable part of my studies on food and nutrition security as food and health are inseparable. South Asia and preferable Nepal is strongly appealing to me, on the one hand due to its incredible contrasts in nature and culture, its rich history and beautiful people and on the other hand the fact that it is one of the least developed countries in terms of human development.From September to December 2014 I will hopefully join The Nepal Trust, a registered Scottish charity and (I)NGO in Nepal, for my research internship after which I expect to graduate from the M.Sc. Health and Society at Wageningen University. Nepal Trust's values and development philosophy are very much after my own heart as they are actually the values on which my study program is based, for instance the participatory, bottom-up approach. Although I certainly understand that I will have to go to one of the most remote areas in Nepal and that life in Humla is extremely challenging, doing a research internship at Nepal Trust would be a great opportunity for me to learn more about doing field research in the field of food and nutrition security, the working environment of a grassroots NGO, and to put my gained knowledge into practice thereby contributing to Nepal Trust's successful activities and helping to improve the life of the people of Humla. As Nepal Trust already does since 1993, I am dedicated to work with health, community development and hope in the Hidden Himalaya’s and I am looking forward for making the most out of this opportunity”.
Donya has had a great time in Humla so far and, without saying, we are looking forward to Donya completing her study, which will help us to gain more insight into these complex issues that will improve our service delivery. We will be happy to keep you updated on her progression.
Meanwhile all at the Nepal Trust would like to thank all of our supporters and volunteers for their help and donations. Please let your friends and relatives know about our work and encourage them to donate or help. Enjoy the festive season coming up and hope that 2015 will be be healthier and happy for all.
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