In June 2016 the ATMA team, on request of the Ladakh Heart Foundation, conducted a 5 day research study throughout the Markha Valley in Ladakh. Traveling alongside a colleague from Delhi, himself a journalist in the field of development, I conducted extensive interviews and gained valuable quantitative and qualitative data on access to healthcare and health status. The Markha Valley has no roads, being cut-off from the rest of the district, and is only accessible by foot or mule. For many people in this valley, the closest medical facility is a 3 day hike away over treacherous rivers and high altitude passes. This inhospitable terrain places the inhabitants of the valley in greater danger in times of medical emergencies and the increased difficulty in accessing healthcare is believed to contribute to poorer health outcomes. This research trip provided the ATMA team and local NGOs with important data on the health status of residents within the valley and how this is related to the lack of access.
On a personal level this experience was a humbling one. Along the way we met people who suffered from many debilitating medical conditions who simply could not receive the care they deserved because facilities were not provided and the facilities that did exist were many days hike away. A formal analysis of the data is underway but from my firsthand experiences along this trek it was clear just how remote many parts of this district are and how this plays out in the day to day lives of inhabitants of the region.
As always, once the data have been analyzed these will be shared on the ATMA website and with our NGO partners in Ladakh. In the meantime I have shared some pictures from the trip for the reader to envision in his/her mind the geographic constraints on healthcare accessibility in the region and to appreciate why we do the work we do in these areas of the world.
Signing off for now.
A Thousand Metres Above (ATMA) is an international non-profit organization that supports healthcare initiatives in the Himalayas.