I am a Family Practice Nurse Practitioner and this Spring saw me return to Nepal in order to pursue a dream I had to bring clean water to the people living in the remote villages of the Dhading region in north central Nepal. My 9 weeks there ended in the tragic events that followed the April 25th 7.8 magnitude earthquake. My return home has been challenging and at the forefront of my mind along the way has been my deep wish to return to Nepal, to the villagers, and to resume the work that myself and the Blue Elephant Water Project team had been doing prior to my departure. My return is being challenged by the political unrest that has followed the implementation of the new Constitution that came into effect September 20th, 2015. The situation is political and cultural and the complexities the current situation have created heightens the humanitarian crisis in Nepal today. I receive word a couple times a week from relations of the villagers. They remain optimistic - the only way forward for them. My return will happen as soon as it is feasible and logical to do so. My 9 weeks there in the Spring was a collaboration between the BEWP non-profit which I established in the Spring, and the organization I originally went to Nepal with when I was part of a 14 member medical trek providing medical care in this remote region in the fall of 2014. They helped me find the staff I needed to hire for the BEWP and helped introduce me into the community. From here on out the BEWP will work as an independent donor working in collaboration with NGO's based in Nepal, the government and the villagers and their leaders.
My work on the BEWP is that of a volunteer - I have decided to step away from clinical practice and focus on this public health initiative full time. I am emotional about this work and although I can't transfer my sentiments nor emotion very well, I know I am forever changed from having remarkably lived through the earthquake and from those days that followed that saw myself and a dear young local woman, Sita, try to save the lives of those who became so dear to me over the couple months I lived in the village of Lapa. Everyone employed to make this project happen will be and are Nepalese. The BEWP had engineers in to Lapa to survey the water source and survey the village - this was before the earthquake. A proposed budget and plan were being drafted when the earthquake hit - so unfortunately we begin the process again. The villagers want to believe they have not been forgotten and that clean water really is a possibility - remarkably, they have never had access to clean water. In addition to the technical work required to plan for the construction of the clean water system we understand that there is a broad spectrum of education that is required in the community to help facilitate the change needed to see longstanding improvements to health. In the Spring of 2015 the BEWP spent time educating in the school about water safety, sanitation and hygiene. We visited homes and did a broad survey of water use and health history and combined this with providing education in the home regarding clean water, safe husbandry practices to protect water sources, sanitation, health and hygiene. We also ran women empowerment classes to address these topics with women in greater numbers.
Clean water will not only reduce the morbidity and mortality rate, but will also help enable higher productivity for this agricultural community and facilitate greater attendance of the children in the school. Women and children are those primarily responsible for the collection of water and make the journey to the nearest water source an average of five times a day. Of the 45 water sources we tested around the village, 6 separate samples tested of each water source over a two month period, we found that 100% of the sources were contaminated. What we found: Escherichia coli, Giardia lamblia, Bacillus, Entamoeba, Ascaris Lumbricoides, Calcium oxalate and Coliform. Over 50% of the homes visited had at least one case of diarrhea and over 62% had individuals suffering from GI related illness. Over 40% of homes had experienced at least one child under age 5 mortality. Diarrhea, dehydration and malnutrition were within the top 5 causes of death for this age group in this community.
Our research in the Lapa, Dhading region of Nepal was conducted over a two month period in the Spring of 2015. Our time in the community came to an abrupt end with the devastating event of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the region on April 25th. Our initial engineering survey of the village and the water source is no longer a viable roadmap for the implementation of the construction of the clean water system in Lapa. We are working towards returning to the region in order to conduct a new survey and to develop a plan forward in collaboration with the villagers. The logistics of accessing the community have been complicated with the destruction of the trail system into this remote area, a 2-5 day walk from the nearest roads. There is no road access into this area and the landslides caused by the earthquake and the monsoon season that followed have significantly restricted access to the villages. Following the earthquake 97% of all homes in the area were damaged and are now classified as uninhabitable in the Dhading region. All outdoor latrines have been damaged and together, these shifts in infrastructure, as well as the increased level of contamination of the water sources following the earthquake, have made for a profound increase in the disease burden in the community as there is an increase in open defecation and a decrease in hygiene and sanitation capacity within the community. Together we can shift the lives of these villagers. Lets make clean water a reality for the people in the remote mountain communities in the Dhading region of Nepal. Please feel free to contact me regarding the project.