Health and prevention
Since Zanskar is isolated from the world 8 months out of a year because of the harshness of the winter, only one basic medicinal infrastructure exists. Zanskarpas can get healed by Tibetan medicine but going to the closest hospital is complicated and it takes a lot of time during the good season. It is not possible to reach the hospital during winter.
To cope with this precarious sanitary situation, the RZA organized several free medical camps in summer.
The logistics of those camps has been very complex to establish. Zanskarpa, Ladakhi, Swiss and French volunteers actively took part in the organization of each camp, from the selection of patients to drug distribution. Traditional doctors, the amtchis, were also integrated to the camps.
The camps, announced by the local radio, were incredibly successful, which shows well the actual needs of the population in terms of medication and care. The last camp in 2009 also permitted the establishment of a sanitary balance sheet of the Zanskar population.
Such camps ensure the healing of several easily identifiable diseases and the detection of heavier pathologies that will need an intervention in the Ladakh or Kargil hospital. However, their duration is always too short to cover all the needs of the local population.
This is why after its last multisite camp, the RZA decided to take a break on this project to start to think about a more efficient way to improve health in Zanskar in the long term.
Lookgin for a partner
The first camp (2004)
Under the aegis of a Belgian ophthalmologist, an Indian medical team well trained to work in difficult conditions auscultated about 500 patients for free, doing cataract surgery on about 50 of them with light equipment and distributed hundreds of glasses. In addition to this, about 40 operations were made by a dentist.
The second camp (2006)
An important medical team composed of Swiss and French doctors (GP, dermatologist, gynecologist, dentist, etc.), an osteopath and Indian doctors and nurses coming from Leh and Kargil held this multidisciplinary camp. In about a week, 1300 patients came to the consultations and benefited from diverse specialized care. The total number of consultations was incredibly high.
The Third Camp (2008)
A team composed of Indian doctors and nurses worked in the small Padum hospital which was adjusted for the occasion. An ophthalmologist performed cataract surgery on about 60 patients and the other specialists auscultated more than 1000 patients for allopathic, gynecologic (many contraception requests) and osteopathic matters.
The Fourth Multisite Camp (2009)
In order to take into consideration the difficult access to healthcare for a big part of the rural population in Zanskar, the RZA organized a camp on 4 different sites, one in each of the three valleys of Zanskar and the fourth in Padum. Thus, the population of the isolated villages were not forgotten.
During more than a week, four motivated medical teams auscultated more than 1800 people, which represents about 15 % of the whole population in Zanskar. They gave them diagnoses and treatments.
A Sanitary Balance Sheet for Zanskar
After those consultations, a database was established in order to draw up a partial sanitary balance sheet of the area. Generally, the population is in good shape and is undeniably resistant. The most frequent pathologies that were met are bound to the lifestyle in the Himalayan mountains. Thus, more than half of the healed people suffered from rheumatologic troubles (in the back and the knees) linked to domestic and agricultural work and the way they sit. More than a third of the patient complained about digestive problems, linked to nutrition and the traditional acid drinks. Finally, one out of six patients came to get a consultation for ophthalmologic troubles linked to the climatic conditions and the altitude (wind, dust, UV-radiation).
The established database will make it possible to better target the medical interventions needed in this area and it will be at disposal for other associations and for the Indian government. Moreover, it will be useful to keep follow-up care for the patients and their state of health.