Healthcare for remote communities in Tibet,
and other Himalayan regions

Tibet is well known as a "land of snows," having the youngest and therefore some of the highest mountains on earth. It has a landscape of awesome beauty with an average altitude of 14,000 feet and an extreme and savage climate. It takes a tough and resilient people to flourish in these conditions.

These people are nomads, semi-nomads and farmers who for centuries have lived in harmony with their environment and the seasons. Their livelihood depends heavily upon the vagaries of nature and a barter economy. Recent decades have seen major social changes which have greatly affected their lives but have not improved their monetary situation or contributed to improved healthcare.

The Chinese government is focusing its healthcare resources in urban areas where it is only available to those who can afford to pay for it. More than eighty percent of Tibetans live in remote and often very inaccessible rural and nomadic areas.

There is little healthcare within most of these communities and in many no modern (allopathic) medicine at all.

A typical example of the healthcare needs in the Kham area of Tibet

In Dzongsar just three doctors practicing Tibetan herbal medicine have the impossible task of serving a population of 9,000 people scattered at high altitude over a wide and undeveloped remote rural area. In Dru gu the situation is even more difficult with just one elderly herbal medicine doctor serving a nomadic population of 7,000 people scattered over 7 valleys.

It may take as long as two days on a horse crossing difficult terrain for a patient to reach the doctor, that is if they are well enough to travel. Women experiencing a difficult childbirth do not have this option. And many die.

"The level of maternal and infant mortality in Tibet is so high that it can be classed as one of the least developed regions on earth."

Tibet Information Network (TIN)

There is a high rate of miscarriage, a lack of pre & anti natal care, a low rate of breast-feeding and pressure on women to return to work prematurely.

"When you are strong and healthy,
You never think of sickness coming,
But it descends with sudden force,
Like a stroke of lightning."

Milarepa