After a few kilometres from Gorkha Bazaar, the gravel road ends and the narrow dirt road to Simjung begins. The bumpy ride on the road felt like an internal massage to my system. However, the worse was yet to come. As we reached Chanaute, the road split. One led to our destination Simjung, while the other went to Takumajh, another village equally devastated by the earthquake.
Simjung, which lies around 180 kilometres northwest of Kathmandu, was heavily affected by the earthquake, which destroyed the village’s only health post. Since then, accessing essential health services had been quite an issue for the villagers, especially pregnant women and new mothers. I was on my way there with the UNICEF emergency response team to deliver medical tents and essential health supplies to establish a birthing centre in the village.
The uphill road to Simjung was unnerving as it had become muddy and slippery due to the rains. The wheels of the tractor, which carried the medical tent and health supplies, got stuck in the mud many times pushing the vehicle towards the slope. Any time this happened, the entire entourage, aided by the locals, would push the tractor back on track.
At one point, the motorable road ended and we started walking. The UNICEF supplies were carried by a group of local porters up the steep rocky hill with the cliffs steep enough, the locals say, to touch one’s nose.
Soon a heavy downpour started, but the team continued despite the torrential rain. We eventually stopped at Dhodeni, a tiny hamlet on the way to recover our energy for the next day’s journey, which included more walking on muddy and slippery steep roads.
When we reached Simjung, the next day, a huge crowd of earthquake-affected villagers, especially women, had gathered at the village chautara (local gathering place). As they approached us with the usual Nepali hospitality and a genuine show of gratitude on their faces, all our exhaustion faded away. The health post staff wasted no time in setting up the medical tent for the new birthing centre. Once the tent was erected and essential services set up, it was not long before a line of pregnant women and new mothers began forming outside the tent.
It was a welcome sight for my tired eyes. Here we were at last with the most essential supplies: medicine, equipment and a tent for the pregnant and new mothers, who would eventually get a chance for safe motherhood.
A new life for the babies who will be born safely thanks to UNICEF!
Photographer Chandra Shekhar Karki traveled to Simjung in July with a UNICEF emergency response team delivering medical tents and essential health supplies to establish a birthing centre there.