Formerly a grain shed, the Sanfe Bagar Health Center (Sanfe Clinic) is the most beautiful health facility in Achham today. It sits above the bazaar in beautiful Sanfe Valley, amidst fields of yellow flowers and a 360 degree view of some of the striking scenery I’ve ever seen. In 2006, Nyaya Health acquired the grain shed and turned it into a clinic that has since become a government Health Post operated in partnership with the DHO.
My first introduction to the Sanfe Clinic was in a search for shelter from one of the most harrowing rainstorms imaginable. As water poured from the sky and dirt flew up from the road below, people ran through the bazaar amidst trucks, cows and frantic mobs to find some respite from the seemingly inescapable elements. I couldn’t see three feet past my nose, and even that was only permitted for seconds before the stinging rain plus dirt assault forced me to close my eyes again. Many seemed to have found shelter under the awnings of local storefronts, but the space was tight and options seemed slim. Drenched and sprinting with little direction, I wondered if Duncan and I would find shelter at all. Then, out of nowhere and without announcement, we came across the Sanfe Clinic.
As we respectively acknowledged the metaphorical irony of literally building one’s own shelter in a land so far from home, we were greeted by a young gentleman who had been standing with a group of fellow storm evaders on the other side of the clinic. En route to meeting this young man’s cohorts, Duncan and I took some time to examine the clinic’s exterior and general appearance. The building seemed well maintained and fully functional. The building’s blue exterior had weathered the past five years well. Pharmacy and Laboratory windows seemed operational. The hut for the electrical generator stood vacant but strong, and the bathrooms, which had been a challenge in the clinic’s initial renovations, seemed similarly ready for duty. We began to speak with the young Acchami men and women hiding beneath the canopy with us, while a tattered paper sign with the words “Nyaya Health” flapped against the top of the rear entrance doorway.
Eager and encouraged to revisit the Sanfe Clinic after a few days of dryness, I returned later that week to learn more about the facility and its services. As I entered, I was immediately struck by how impressive the white tiled floors were. I was led into a long hallway that served as the central artery of five rooms that extended from it. At its end, was another doorway from which light poured in and the green fields beyond announced themselves. Along that hallway and in every adjoining room were 900 square feet of clinical white tile. The tile caught my attention because it had been lacking in any Achhami health facility I had ever seen and was a topic of recent conversation regarding imminent renovations at Bayalpata Hospital. Seeing the tiled floors of Sanfe reinforced for me that they were worth it. Although quite expensive, the tile lent distinct airs of professionalism and cleanliness–a simple detail that set it ahead of any other health facility in the area.
The rest of the clinic was functional and impressive as anticipated. After plenty of photographs, I left the clinic for my motorbiked ascent to Bayalpata Hospital’s hilltop perch. On the ride I reflected on how far Nyaya had come in such a short period of time. How its seminal projects were still in place, serving the community and representated ever-expanding partnerships with governmental and other collaborators. Yet, most of all, I reflected upon the stories of the young men and women who had escaped the rain with us not so long before. That this clinic had been “established by an American organization that had come to Achham some time ago, offering a clinic and free healthcare to an entire region of people with nothing else.” A true and lasting gift indeed.
Gregory Karelas is medical anthropologist and volunteer with Nyaya Health. He has worked in New York and as a consultant in Achham to further Nyaya’s efforts domestically and abroad.