The first time I went to far-western Nepal was twelve years ago. I remember reaching Accham after two days of driving – it was bleak. Busloads of men were leaving their villages to go and work in India. Mules kicked up dust from the dirt road and there were big boards with information on HIV. There was no road to Mangalsen, the district headquarters. All we ate was cabbage and rice for the next ten days.
For an outsider to go there and do anything seemed impossible to me then. But then a story of a hospital started to reach my ears – about a Nepali girl married to an American doctor who ended up in Accham for a honeymoon and decided that healthcare needed a serious overhaul. The story that filtered into my ears was about how that medical doctor from Yale ended up convincing his friends to do something. And they did – providing perhaps the best medical facility in the entire region – all for free through their NGO, Nyaya health.
I was back in Accham almost five years ago. I was doing a film on why so many women in Nepal were still dying at childbirth. At one point during the filming, our team had to race against time to get a woman in labor to the nearest hospital, which was 5 hours drive away. We got there on time but she still had to deliver the baby without any doctors around. She and her baby were lucky to have survived but many are not.
With no medical facilities, 99.9% of the babies in Achham were born in home or in cowsheds without any medical supervision and 1 in every 125 mothers died during delivery.
But Bayalpata hospital is changing that for better – and with extraordinary support of strangers from around the globe.
Nyaya health, that funds 80 percent of the hospital’s cost, raises most of it with the support of health experts and individual donors who believe in their cause. A year ago, it also took an innovative approach and partnered with Kangu- an online crowd funding platform for expectant mothers. People from all around the world were now pitching in. And their contributions, of even as little as $10, was making maternal care and safe delivery possible for rural Nepal.
To know women in Achham now have the option of caesarean section available to them comes as a huge relief. Just a couple of years ago, if there were any complication during delivery, the woman would most likely die giving birth.
They also recently launched their own online crowd funding platform -www.crowdfundhealth.org - that allows people to not only fund a delivery but also a treatment so that anyone in need can receive help.
Moreover, it’s not just men and women in Achham who are benefiting from the services. People from other districts in far western Nepal like Bajhang and Bajura come to the hospital for treatment – many on foot. Till date, it has already treated more than 136,000 patients, all free of cost.
The hospital here stands as testimony that innovative minds, technology and goodwill can change things for better.
For people in Achham, their lives have changed for better. No wonder, they say the hospital’s been “godsend”.