Posted by Knut Skyberg and Borgny Ween
We were a group of Norwegians and Nepali visiting Bayalpata Hospital. Four of us Norwegians came to Nepal for the first time. Our main purpose was to get insight in this well driven health development project we have supported. During our 3-week stay in Nepal we have seen the whole range from poverty to luxury. Everywhere we were kindly received by people with dignity regardless of social condition. Dan Schwarz and Ranju Sharma (Bayalpata Hospital Executive Director and Program Coordinator, respectively) showed us around both in the hospital and the local community. This visit will surely enable us to advocate in a much better way future activities to support Nyaya Health. At the same time we will not encourage others to take this as a tourist trip. The roads are long, bad and dangerous and the hard working staff at the hospital should not be disturbed too often.
Why did we go to Nepal?
My wife Borgny was contacted by colleague radiographer Chhavi a few years ago. To make this long story short this resulted in his coming to Norway for master studies that now are nearing completion. When planning my 60th birthday earlier this year we found out that it would be a good idea to financially support a development project in Nepal instead of collecting more things that we privileged people really do not need. Thanks to Chhavi we came across NYAYAHealth that seems quite unique as to vision, long-term strategy and local connection. Personally I have been quite sceptical towards the thought that money solves everything in developing countries, but the way NYAYAHealth work shows that a lot can be done providing the right policy. To follow up our engagement we felt it would be worthwhile to get a closer look at the hospital. In addition we also wanted to see Nepal in general, and were lucky to be invited home to many of Borgny’s contacts, and also saw hospitals in Dhangadi, Pokhara, and Kathmandu, and even a health post in Gandruk. Joining us were Grete and Olav who Chhavi also had stayed with while studying at a college north of Oslo.
Coming to Bayalpata
Via London and Delhi, we arrived in Kathmandu where we met Marit from the Norway-Nepal Association who has been writing about our engagement in the association’s journal. We first stayed in the tourist district of Thamel, but soon flew west to Dhangadhi where Chhavi met us at the airport. From there we had a two days’ jeep drive to Bayalpata, staying the night over in Dadeldhura. On the way we saw the village Atariya, where we felt like going back 100 years in time, in many ways. Cattle and geese in the road, old-fashioned vehicles, shops resembling leans we build in the forest in Norway. We bought kerosene there for our gas burner to make our own food if needed. Along the road further on we met people in bright and clean clothes, and interested children who were eager to get closer to us. It was obvious that this area had not been too much bothered by tourists. When we got out of the car with a map they gathered around us, showing true interest. Later when it got dark we saw a jackal in the road, rainforest, and women carrying hay. In the Dadeldhura guesthouse, we surely saw the contrasts of the time. Quite old-fashioned toilets but at the same time flat screen satellite TV. There we Norwegians had our first packages of dry dinner bags that just needed boiling water. Our Nepalese friends had daal bhat (as always). The next day we drove eastwards up and down hills that never seemed to end. Without jeep this would not have been possible. After Sanphebagar we crossed the river by driving in the water, as the bridge was not completed. The nearby former airport had been destroyed by Maoists.
Arriving in Bayalpata
Finally we arrived at the hospital, and we were greeted so friendly, we were really touched to be there. After a lunch at the visitors’ canteen we were taken to a walk downhill to local farms, fields and houses. We were lucky to meet a community health program worker and showed her house. It was a nice house but as an occupational physician I was amazed that a kitchen with wood fire did not have a chimney. Dan told that this was the tradition, but also leading to an elevated risk of chronic obstructive lung disorders in non-smoking women.
Outside harvested rice was being dried on the ground. Afterwards we saw a temple, a schoolhouse and a chhaupadi goth. In the evening we drove “downtown” to “wild west”-like village Sanfebagar where we stayed the night over in a guesthouse. “Challenging toilets” for us spoilt Europeans. A power cut in the evening prompted use of head-lamps we had been advised to bring. Again dried food with boiled water for dinner, with some good chapati added.
Round trip in the hospital
The morning after we drove up to the hospital again, lots more patients queuing up this day, since the festival was over. We started at the registration and did the full round trip, via the consultation room, the pharmacy, the hospital beds, the delivery room, and the newly installed x-ray room. The round ended in the house being refurbished for a coming surgery and better personnel housing, and finally the water and power supply. We were impressed. We also had the time to discuss possible further support activities.
After the encouraging Bayalpata hospital visit we drove back to Dadeldhura. But as we had sent one jeep back to Dhangadhi, we became quite worried when we started hearing a sound from beneath the car. We feared brake failure. Luckily the gear stood the test until we had injected some grease in it twice on the way. And when we came to the bridge over a branch of the Mohani river Godavari, we saw that there was a big hole where we could look 30 meters down to the river. Had the hole been larger we might have still been on the north side of the river.
Rest of the trip
For the rest of trip, we visited Pokhara, were round in the town and along the lake, the impressive Charak hospital, and saw women’s rehabilitation centres. We had a 5-day mountain trekking trip to Poon Hill, 3200 meters high. In Kathmandu we did the usual tourist sites, but also saw hospitals, while Chhavi and Borgny also gave presentations at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital. Chhavi took care of a projector donated by Olav’s company in Hamar, intended to be used for educational activities at Bayalpata hospital. After three exciting and thought provoking weeks we went home to Norway with minds filled with memories and inspiration.
We are currently planning two more charity shows in Norway, namely 10th and 11th September 2011, with the English world famous band the Hollies. Before the Oslo 11th September show we will have an open seminar on health development in Nepal at the Norwegian National Institute of Occupational Health. In the meantime we are helping the radiology services at Bayalpata to function optimally (including occupational hygiene for the technician); and continuing to collect money for Nyaya Health in Norway.
A big thank you to all at Bayalpata hospital for receiving us so well – we wish you all the best for this important work.