Life and death in rural Nepal
BMS World Mission workers Alan and Megan Barker reflect on their experience of both the beauty and the harsh reality of rural Nepal.
A treacherous hike through the mountains provides the only path to medical care for the isolated communities of Nepal. Megan and Alan were able to travel this path on their journey to Jumla and Mugu – two of Nepal’s most remote districts. Travelling from their home town of Surkhet to Jumla was a relatively easy 20-minute plane ride. However, the trip to Mugu was not as simple: a two-day walk.
“Each day we walked for 12 hours on paths that alternated between slippery mud, sharp rocks and shifting gravel and all the time either climbing steeply or plodding steeply down,” says Alan.
For the Barkers, this journey was part of their ‘holiday’ to see Rara Lake – one of Nepal’s beauty spots untouched by the tourist industry. It was not until the journey back to Jumla that they caught a glimpse of the harsh reality that many rural Nepali people face.
On the second day of their return journey as they “struggled, wheezing and puffing, up and downhill,” they were overtaken by a group of people carrying a very sick man on a stretcher over the rocky terrain. Alan says, “The people had been carrying the poor man for hours, maybe even days, and still had several hours to go before they reached the town”.
The Jumla hospital provides the only hope for many rural people in search of medical attention. Alan describes the path they were on as “not just a trekking route for would-be adventurers; it is the path that links isolated communities to the relatively ‘modern’ amenities in Jumla.”
Even though the Jumla hospital is the primary facility for many isolated communities in this mountainous region, it proves to be ill-equipped for the tasks the staff must perform.
Megan describes one instance in which the staff had to carry out a caesarean section at midnight “in the combined light of a head-torch and some mobile phones because there was no electricity in the operating theatre”. The baby did not survive.
During their time in Nepal, the Barkers have become used to using words such as ‘rural’ or ‘isolated’. However, Alan comments that, “seeing that small band of stretcher-bearers and thinking about the hospital in which they were placing their hope, brought home to us once again the reality of life, and death, for many in the rural areas of Nepal.”
Alan and Megan support the work of the International Nepal Fellowship (INF), with occupational therapy and programme support.