ISIS recently conducted a mobile medical camp in Humla – bringing doctors, nurses and medical specialists to the region in an attempt to improve access to health services for Humlis. This blog is the first in a three part series examining the reasons for and impact of the camps.
BY ANGJUK LAMA and KYAMMA LAMA
HUMLA PROGRAMME MANAGER AND HUMLA HEALTH COORDINATOR, THE ISIS CHILDREN’S FOUNDATION
Humla is one of the least developed regions in Nepal. Due to its geographical difficulties, poverty, harsh weather and remoteness, health services are minimal. There is just one under-equipped and under-staffed district hospital for a population of more than fifty thousand. A 2013 survey conducted by the ISIS research department identified that on becoming ill, Humlis sometimes wait for years (one patient waited 2.5 years before seeking treatment for a serious condition) before they are able to seek a first treatment, signalling serious gaps in health service access.
In an attempt to address some of these gaps, ISIS have developed a holistic healthcare programme which includes; working with the Nepali government and other non-government organisations to improve local health posts, providing access to a Tibetan medicine practitioner for nine months of the year, and bringing mobile medical camps to the region.
In December 2013, ISIS took three Nepali doctors (including one female doctor), a psychiatrist, three certified medical assistants (CMAs) and a trained nurse and midwife to Humla for a 3 week mobile medical camp. We also embedded researchers to collect information on each patient seen, including medical, social and economic information.
The camps were stationed at the local health posts in 7 villages and provided access to people of 28 surrounding villages. Incredibly, 2,676 people received free medical care during the camps!!
One of the people who benefited from the camp was Tilsar from Kholsi village. Tilsar is a 27 year old woman who belongs to poor Dalit (untouchable caste) community. She is a cheerful woman who likes to talk and sing. However, Tilsar has been unable to walk since birth.
Two months before the camp arrived, Tilsar’s condition deteriorated while practicing chaupadi. Chaupadi is a tradition practiced among Humli Hindus which sees women sleeping out outside their homes in sheds, stables or caves during menstruation. They are deemed impure and treated as untouchable. They eat separately from their families, cannot enter their homes and often have to wash at a separate tap.
During chaupadi, Tilsar spent several days in a cowshed while it was freezing outside. After several days her whole body was swollen and aching. She had a fever, no appetite and was very weak. She was unable to move her hands and feet. Due to poverty and her physical constraints, she could not get to the district hospital for further treatment.
Thanks to the ISIS mobile medical camp, Tilsar was able to receive professional healthcare in her village. After being diagnosed with arthritis and other secondary infections caused by the cold, the doctors provided Tilsar with treatment and she began to feel better. Her swollen body recovered, her pain eased and her appetite returned. The medical camp staff were delighted to see Tilsar talking, laughing and singing again – back to her cheerful self.
The ISIS mobile medical camps and follow up services are extremely beneficial for the Humli community, and manage to reach those who are most deprived of health services in the region – those living in poverty, women, children, the elderly and those with a disability. However, despite these benefits, it is not enough. Humlis need regular health personnel, a regular supply of medicines and health posts that are adequately equipped with medical equipment.
Keep your eye out for parts two and three of the mobile medical camps blogs, to find out more about ISIS’ work on monitoring and evaluating the impact of these efforts in Humla.