I will try to paint a picture for you of the situation of the Himalayan people by using the story of this young girl Pasang. Pasang is 20 years of and lives in a village of 100 people situated at an elevation of roughly 3,000metres and a 2-3 day journey to the nearest road. She is 6 months pregnant with her third child and will give birth just like her last two in her little stone house with a few women surrounding her to help. If there are any complications either her or her baby will die. Actually if there are any medical emergencies in this village, the closest hospital is Kathmandu which would be another 6-7 hours bus ride from the road which is a 3 days walk. Patang continues to do physical labour to provide for her family which entails carrying heavy loads on her back (like in the photograph) most likely until her baby is due. Her skin had noticeable blotches to it due to vitamin deficiencies. By the looks of her stomach one would not at all guess she were 6 months pregnant and the statistic that 1/2 o the children in the Himalayas die before they reach the age of 8 does not surprise me.
Along with this description of their situation imagine the environment. Most homes have the kitchen in the same room where the family sleeps and they are constantly breathing in smoke from the kitchen fire. The window panes are one pane and do not keep much of the cold out. On top of this, I forgot to mention that all of the amenities such as window panes and stoves are all carried up on one’s back (with the traditional cord around the forehead). To branch off for a second, I will describe one instant where our group passed a man early in the morning carrying an entire iron stove up the steep mountain trail on his back. The next day we were served apple pie that was baked in that same iron stove! I appreciated every single bite of that apple pie and ate it in a rather perplexed manner!
Carrying on from their environment leads to the vast remoteness and the rugged terrain. These villages are nestled between massive mountain peaks, raging rivers, massive waterfalls, sharp and slippery stoney paths which according to the Nepali are “straight”, meaning they go “up and down and up and down.” The Himalayan people are a forgotten people. People from other nations will think of the Himalayas and think of Mt. Everest but do not realize that there are people living in villages throughout these mountains, cut off from medical aid or education. In one village at 3,500metres we visited the “Health Post” there and left some medicine. First of all we had to track down the volunteer who runs the health post and when we found him he had to search for the key. He currently works another job to support his family and when there is someone who needs medical aid he is called upon. An American couple assisted him financially to study 3 years in Kathmandu to be a certified Health Worker and told him that after this he must work for 2 years in a remote village. He makes $100 a month from the government but also must pay for his living expenses which are expensive in the remote villages. The Health Post was stocked with a few medicines (half most likely expired) and a bed and a few posters on the wall. He appreciated our medicine that we left but said to us that what they really need is man power. He cannot do the work on his own and when he is not able to be there no one gets medical aid and if it is serious that person will most likely die. It was a staggering reality to see and witness. It was a punch to my gut to just how remote and isolated these people are and how much need there is for them.