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Visit to AMDA Nepal and AMDA India (1): Health Education - Our Innovation Challenge

Publication date:2020-01-30
 
By Dr. Shigeru Suganami
President, AMDA International

Preface

On the 31st of August 2019, upon my arrival at Kathmandu International Airport, I was picked up by AMDA Nepal Director Mr. Regmi after a four-and-a-half-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, my current home.

As we moved to a small-yet-clean hotel in the city where good-natured staff greeted us, Mr. Regmi briefed me about recent news regarding AMDA Nepal at the hotel’s rooftop cafe. It was there that I learned AMDA Mechi Hospital had somewhat managed to pull itself out of a setback it was in. Since the hospital had more problems than two other facilities run by AMDA Nepal, I was pleased to receive the good news.
 
How AMDA Mechi Hospital Thrived

AMDA Mechi Hospital, located an hour-and-a-half drive from AMDA Damak Hospital, was constructed in 2008 with the subsidy of the Japanese Embassy’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Projects. Contrary to AMDA Nepal’s enthusiasm, the hospital at the time did not have enough capacity to maintain its day-to-day operation. As a result, it didn’t take long before it hit a crucial point to which the hospital could be discontinued if no improvement was made.

When all came to light, I was so shocked that there was nothing I could do but hope for the hospital to bring itself back on its feet. Especially, considering the fact that it was the Japanese people’s tax money that was poured into its construction, it was an absolute must to avoid the hand-over of the facility to another foreign organization.

On the 29th of September 2015, a meeting was held at AMDA Mechi Hospital with Mechi City deputy mayor, the head of the local chamber of commerce and other influential figures, not to mention with AMDA Damak Hospital head Dr. Nabin and myself in attendance.

In a nutshell, none of us wanted the hospital to close down and all of us were eager to let the facility thrive. In the end, the head of the chamber of commerce made a personal contribution of approximately 10,000 USD overseeing the essentiality of the clinic in the locality. His act deeply moved me to do the same immediately after that. Likewise, the deputy mayor said the city would do all it can to support the facility’s further management. Dr. Nabin also expressed his will to actively support the operation of the hospital.

Never will I forget the firm hand shake we exchanged. AMDA Mechi Hospital would not have been where it is now without the benevolence of the stakeholders and their strength which put things into practice.

The Present

As AMDA Mechi Hospital handles about 5,000 to 6,000 deliveries yearly, Mr. Regmi had always wished to introduce a prenatal ultrasound device. Among many patients are of those who reside in mountainous areas, of whom many of them are pregnant women. Surely, it is a lot of work for them to travel a long distance, and for this reason, the idea of launching a mobile clinic service using an ultrasound-equipped vehicle had been on his mind for quite some time.

Meeting the Japanese Ambassador

On the 3rd of September, I had an honour of meeting the Japanese Ambassador to Nepal, His Excellency Mr. Masamichi Saigo, who was kind enough to accept me in spite of my short notice. I kindly inquired the ambassador if the embassy could grant the grass-root aid to the above proposal with emphasis on three following points: With the equipment, AMDA Nepal hopes to 1) launch a mobile ultrasound clinic in mountainous areas, 2) fulfill local medical needs at the Mechi hospital, and 3) optimize disaster relief activities. For 3), AMDA Nepal is well aware of the equipment's advantages from the 2015 quake-disaster experience.

Mechi City to be Nepal’s “Health-Education Central”

That evening, also joined by Mechi City mayor and Mechi Chamber of Commerce head, AMDA Nepal kindly organized a welcome dinner for me. Among a wide range of topics we talked about was “health and education”, a concept which the city mayor wanted to propagate. “How about introducing something that combines both elements?” I suggested.

“Japan is known for longevity in which it is mandatory for our children to take health education classes at school. From washing hands (public health) to food combinations (nutrition science), children have the privilege of learning the best of both worlds. While this attempt is still rare in other Asian countries, I am convinced that you are the one to diffuse the concept in your country by enacting an ordinance in this respect,” I continued. “If you are willing to establish your city as “Nepal’s health-education central”, we are more than happy to invite you to Okayama at our expense and let you observe how things are conducted.”

After showing fervent response, they made their way home as the joyous gathering came to a close.

In Mongolia, its health ministry designated every third Sunday in September to be the national day of “Children’s eyes”. The fruition was the end-result of our paediatric-ophthalmology project that took place between 2012 and 2018. Although the Mongolian government has not been able to institutionalize children’s eye check-up nationwide, I am most confident that this would see the light of day as soon as ample fund is allocated. (I must credit Professor Hiroko Takasaki of Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare for her tireless work in playing a central role in this project.)

For NGOs, it is literally impossible to enact a law in a country, no matter how much budget they have in their hands. However, they can make utmost efforts in calling on governments to work towards the legislation. What it takes for things to persist in a long run is definitely the authority of law. It is my ardent wish that the City of Mechi becomes Nepal’s health-education hub, with the health ministry to legitimately back up the promulgation of this initiative. I sincerely hope Mechi to follow suit with Mongolia’s successful example.
 
    •  President's Message
    •  Nepal
    •  2019

 
 
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