Getting Back to Ghap
The world is becoming smaller in the weirdest of ways in this season of COVID-19. We all, no matter which language we’re using, are familiar with terms like, “shelter in place” and “social distance”, “pre-corona” and “post-corona”. Any sign of “post-corona”, though, still feels a bit far off. In Nepal, people all across the country have been on lockdown since the end of March, and cases have only begun to rise in the last few weeks. Police and officials have been encouraging everyone to … but staying in and staying safe doesn’t quite mean the same for those who find themselves stranded from home.
Samjhana and Tashi traveled to the Kathmandu Valley from their home in Nubri, a valley hidden between the high Himalayas of north-central Nepal. They came for work before anyone knew a 9 week nationwide lockdown would be enforced, making returning home to Nubri extremely difficult. Samjhana is a skilled birth attendant who works in the Ghap Health Post and Tashi, a field supervisor for our partner organization GCAS oversees our health posts and operations in Ghap. Both are important to our work in Ghap. Both were stuck away from their home and the important health work they’ve been called to.
During the lockdown, Tashi was able to stay with family and check in weekly with his team in Ghap. Samjhana attended and completed a skilled birth attendant course during her time in Kathmandu to learn how to better serve her community. But she was separated from her husband and family back home in Nubri. During their time in the city, they stayed indoors, at times listless, like the rest of us.
The trek from Ghap to Kathmandu, over rough terrains covering many miles, is common for these two, and many others who work in remote places. But it is not a simple business trip. Traveling to the valley for training or meetings often means a few days of hiking, a potentially long, bumpy drive on precarious roads, and a flight on a small aircraft into Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan airport. Many who are from villages surrounding the city send family members into the city for contracted work. And many of those contracted workers have been out of a job since the lockdown began. Longing to return home, some have made long journeys on foot to be with their families during such an uncertain time.
Home for Samjhana and Tashi is not just a bus ride away. The work they do every day is among the most remote people of the Himalayas. They make the long, treacherous journey back and forth to Kathmandu to make the hope they carry go even further. And we want them back home. We’d made many attempts to make this possible but, due to a long line of many people trying to get home, were unsuccessful. However, a recent HALO emergency allowed us the opportunity to take Samjhana home by helicopter! When she arrived, she was welcomed home by her coworkers dressed head to toe in blue plastic, protective gear. It’s certainly not the home she left behind, where infrared thermal guns and 14-day quarantines didn’t yet exist, but we’re so glad to have her back where she belongs: helping new mothers bring their babies safely into the world.