Peace Corps and Nepalese charities work to improve Nepal’s rural health care

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Women community health workers in Western Nepal
Five Community Health Worker leaders with the former Director of Community Health Ranju Sharma pose together on a hill overlooking the new Bayalpata Hospital in the Achham District region of Nepal. The hospital is part of a new initiative launched by Nepal based charity Nyaya Health. A private Nepalese based charity and the U.S. based initiative Peace Corps are both now ramping up to help families in the rural regions of Nepal. Image: Nyaya Health

(WNN) Kathmandu, NEPAL: In a region where adequate healthcare is at a minimum, Nepal is trying to catch up with an adequate baseline for healthcare services, but the goal is an uphill one. The latest data by the WHO – World Health Organization shows struggle in the region to serve its own population still exists, especially in its rural population.

One of the biggest problems is an ongoing shortage of health care workers. This includes doctors, nurses and midwives.

“Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Myanmar have a critical shortage of trained health workers,” said the WHO in a recent September 2012 release.”These countries have fewer than 23 health workers (doctors, nurses and midwives) per 10,000 population which is considered the minimum health workforce needed to achieve 80% coverage of essential health interventions.”

“More people lack access to health-care providers in the WHO South-East Asia Region than in WHO’s African Region,” added the WHO.

With a lack of doctors, nurses and midwives in Nepal the nation has been struggling to lift maternal mortality and child heath care services as well, but internal as well as external assistance is coming now for Nepal.

The U.S. American based Peace Corps is returning to Nepal after it left the region 8 years ago in 2004. The return to Nepal for the Peace Corps is a happy one on all sides.

“People from host villages, along with those whose lives were touched by volunteers during the 42 years we were previously there, are very excited to welcome the newest group of Peace Corps volunteers to Nepal,” said Country Director Wojnar-Diagne.

In the next 3 months Peace Corps volunteers will be on their way to Nepal as they receive training in the country’s culture and language. They will also learn tech skills that may be needed as part of their special volunteer assignment. Once they are ready they will head to work in the western rural mountain region of Nepal and will be involved where they will be involved with a variety of agricultural projects and nutrition education programs in the region.

The new Peace Corps Nepal program launch is being funded in part by the U.S. based GHI – Global Health Initiative,  a U.S. government program that combines the work of USAID with agencies like U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, who reports directly to the U.S. Secretary of State. GHI currently works in over 80 countries to lift the standards of healthcare in regions where the need is greatest. ‘Feed the Future,’ another U.S. government initiative bringing sustainable farming, food security and better nutrition to regions where food shortages have been common, will also be a contributing to the new program for Peace Corps Nepal.

Private sector initiatives in healthcare for Nepal are also revving up as Nyaya Health is working to expand their outreach to “thousands in the rural area.”  Outreach for the program is being met by the re-0pening of the Byalpata Hospital in the Achham District in Western Nepal. Along with this, Nyaya Health plans to train over 100 rural community health workers.

“Nyaya Health uses a forward-thinking model that’s building sustainable, long-term infrastructure for health care in Nepal’s Far-Western Region,” says the organization. “In Nepal, 98 percent of Nyaya Health’s staff is Nepali, and more than 80 percent of team members come from the Far-Western Region where the organization works. More than 101,000 people in the region have accessed free health care since 2008 thanks to the nonprofit’s work,” continues Nyaya Health who is currently working to raise monies for its program and outreach.

Nepal today is expanding but is still considered to be one of the least developed countries in the world. Rates of malnutrition are high for a region that has chronic problems with water availability and food security. According to the 2009 “State of the World’s Children” by UNICEF – the United Nations Children’s Fund almost 50 percent of all children under the age of 5 in Nepal suffer from child stunting, 39 percent are underweight and 13 percent are wasted, all are childhood conditions that are avoidable and are directly caused by malnutrition.

““Much of the [Peace Corps] program work will be to promote food security at the grassroots level, and the communities that will share their knowledge and culture with our skilled volunteers eagerly await their arrival,” added Peace Corps Country Director Wojnar-Diagne.


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