Dolakha is around 170 km away from Kathmandu – but a staggering 7 hours drive thanks to the tortuous mountain roads .The dusty roads is a signature of mountains in Nepal. But the purpose of the travel, my companions made it all worthwhile.
I went to Charikot and Jiri and got to know more about the places and people there as a volunteer of Medication for Nepal (MFN). We went there to attend a program organized by LEO youth camp. It was good to meet so many people looking and willing to be part of the change, but I was completely taken aback, and ministers would come via helicopter to just inaugurate the program. At times it hit me, probably the cost of that heli-ride would have enough to fund the district hospital for few weeks? I do not know, but surely I was surprised to see that ministers had time to inaugurate.
Before joining MFN, if someone had asked me anything related to health rights then my expression and response would be the same as people around me – ‘I don’t know’. I find several others educated people of my generation unaware about health rights. Having worked for MFN, now I feel deeply connected to the issue. It has become my passion!
Before my journey to Charikot and Jiri, I had met several people and conducted various sessions regarding information dissemination – the campaign of making people aware about their basics health rights, which is categorized into 4 terms: children, women, general people and elder citizens. We have posted here: https://www.facebook.com/medicationforNepal/posts/1102905069818583. I have been a part of these campaigns from the beginning and it has not been easy. Basically, we go to schools, youth groups, or women’s groups and before starting every session I ask them ‘Do you know your health rights?’ Then they answer with a big NO, which always makes me sad. Until we know what our rights are, how do even get them?
My second question follows ‘Have you ever received any free medicines from the hospitals? The usual answer from Kathmandu is “really there is something for free!!” from the people outside Kathmandu, the answer is usually “Cetamol, Jevanjal, Worm tablets, Iron tablets and Tuberculosis medication”. Besides these in my past 5 months of going around, I have never heard any other answers.
While this session in Dolakha and Jiri went as expected, I didn’t have answers to many of the questions they asked. I came back with more questions. A student from class 9 at Charikot School questioned me: ‘Maam, do you know there are so many people who have sold their kidney on their own and some people unknowingly. They might have kidney issues in the future. Will they get transplant services for free because they are from impoverished group? Will they get free Dialysis services?’ I was very surprised, sad and happy at the same time. How sensible question a young boy asked me. I have always heard complains about the ministry or criticism from many people but this question really amazed me. Then I came to know this is not only a Charikot story.
Onwards from Dolakha, we went to District hospital Dolakha,Jiri. We spoke with Dr. Nishant Dhakal, general practitioner at District hospital Dolakha, Jiri and Tanka Jirel (Chairman of operating and management committee at District Hospital Dolakha,Jiri).Dr. Dhakal mentioned, a snake bite requires a 3 hour travel to another hospital, because all they don’t have the required medication, though the cases of snake bites are not that common. What surprises me is recently we have heard so many announcements from the Ministry of Health regarding free medicines for yet other diseases, which is fantastic. But perhaps more worthwhile effort will be to see if the previous commitments have been fulfilled properly. How easy it is to say that we are providing so many facilities for free but if we look closely most of the ‘free’ facilities are not been provided.Ref: https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/drugs-crunch-hits-parsa-health-centres/, http://setopati.net/society/19649/
We are making very small steps towards making government more responsible by telling people about their rights in the step-by-step detail. But it is a hard process and we have faced it. It is hard to get young people in Kathmandu to engage. It is not enough to know, but to act upon. But it does start with knowing. I have passionately adopted the agenda of “My heath, my rights”. We need more activism and a way to get the policies implemented.