|GOING ACROSS: A woman prepares to take a sick relative across the Mugu Karnali. The Maoists blew up the bridge eight years ago, and it has never been rebuilt. The few remaining health workers north of the river left and haven't returned.|
The government has legislated free health care to the poor by next month. As with all previous promises, this is unlikely to be kept.
The last place it may happen is in Nepal's remote northwestern corner in the districts of Humla, Mugu and Dolpo. Every health indicator here is much worse than the rest of the country. The child mortality rate is nearly four times the national average. Many more mothers and babies die at child-birth here than anywhere else. Vaccination programs don't get to remote areas and people can die of simple infections. Life-expectancy is 44, and many of the remote areas are even more cut off after Maoists bombed bridges during the conflict.
The health gap is being filled by well-meaning foreigners, but when they leave, the problem remains. A local Maoist leader in Dolpo, when asked why not a single health post had been built in the areas they controlled, replied: "First comes destruction, then construction."