Helambu Health Project

During a visit by one of the trustees to the Helambu region of Nepal, she trekked through the village of Melamchigaon where she was invited to see the school. As a result of the visit, the NCT raised money for various projects at the school and in 2004 the head teacher, Purna Gautam, approached the charity with an unusual request. He had a very gifted student at the school, a young Sherpa, who wanted to train as a doctor and set up a badly-needed clinic in the village. Purna was convinced that his student was capable of achieving this ambition but funding him was impossible for either his family or, indeed, the village as a whole.

The first step, however, was to raise the necessary money to send Kanchha to Kathmandu to complete his A Levels - and so began the NCT's biggest project to date! Once he had achieved the necessary qualifications, the Trust tried to assist him in finding a place in a medical school at a Nepalese university but, because of Kanchha's low caste as a Sherpa, this proved to be impossible. One of the trustees suggested putting in application to a British university - a long shot which paid off! Kanchha was interviewed at the Faculty of Medicine at Manchester University and, to the delight of all concerned, was offered a place in 2007.

The next six years proved to be a real challenge in terms of the fund-raising necessary for tuition fees and accommodation but, thanks to generous donations and the hard work of those who organised charity events - not to mention Kanchha's own contribution from his wages as a part-time waiter - the goal was achieved. In July 2013 five proud trustees were joined by Purna at Kanchha's graduation ceremony. 





Kanchha is now in the second of his two foundation years at a hospital in Bangor and continues to contribute by gifting part of his salary to the NCT to help fund other projects. When he returns to Melamchigaon after the completion of his training, he plans, with the help of other agencies such as Community Action Nepal and Keta Keti to set up a clinic to serve not only his own village but the wider region. 

Premises to house the clinic have already been built thanks to Community Action Nepal, the charity founded by mountaineer Doug Scott and NCT will continue to support the project by raising money to buy essential medical equipment such as an X-Ray machine and defibrillator.



Helambu Health Project

January 2015

Helambu Health Project: to enhance the medical services and facilities in the Helambu Valley, Nepal supported by the Nepalese Children’s Trust; Community Action Nepal; KetaKeti and University of Manchester.  Led by Dr Kanchha Babu Sherpa.


NEPAL TRUST LOGO    Logo        http://www.susy2014.manchester.ac.uk/images/logomanchester.jpg                                                                                                                                                        

1.       Introduction

The project was set up by the Nepalese Children’s Trust (Registered Charity no. 1119767) and has been supported by the University of Manchester, Community Action Nepal (registered charity no. 1067772 founded by Doug Scott CBE) and KetaKeti, a Belgium charity, as well as many other organisations and individuals.

Kanchha Babu Sherpa is committed to complete the project to improve and enhance the health care to the people of remote villages in the Helambu region of Nepal. 








2.     Personal Details – Dr Kanchha Babu Sherpa

Kanchha was born in 1986 in Melamchighyang, (on the map – Melamchi Gaon) a small, remote village in the Helambu Valley, to the north east of Kathmandu. His parents were very poor and herded and sold yak and cattle. When he was 8, Kanchha was taken into the village school by the head teacher Purna Gautam. Purna spotted Kanchha’s potential and encouraged him.  Kanchha developed an ambition to become a doctor and return to Melamchighyang. He was educated at the school until he was 14, and then at a school and college in Kathmandu for the following four years.

Kanchha was refused entry to the University in Kathmandu because of his social status but with Purna’s help and the support of The Nepalese Children’s Trust in England he was offered a place at the University of Manchester in September 2007. Thanks to early financial support from a Norwegian sponsor, the Nepalese Children’s Trust, the University of Manchester, KetaKeti, national and international Rotary Clubs, and many other organisations and individuals, Kanchha qualified as a doctor (MBChB) in July 2013.

Kanchha has completed one year at Maelor Hospital in Wrexham as a junior doctor, and is currently working at Bangor Hospital to complete his registration as a doctor.  Kanchha will start the set-up of the medical facilities in the Helambu region towards the end of 2015 and will remain part of the time in the UK for a further period to complete his postgraduate training.


3.      Background and History

Prior to starting his studies at the University of Manchester, Kanchha did some voluntary work at a health post in Helambu in 2006, where they carried out 24 cataract operations in the space of three days and saw over 500 patients. This provided a good grounding and gave Kanchha an insight into the health issues of the region.  There is no access to a local doctor and the nearest hospitals are in Kathmandu, so the need for a qualified medical practitioner is urgent.

There are two small health posts in the region, both established by Community Action Nepal.  These provide basic health care by trained nurses using rudimentary equipment, seeing on average, between 10 and 15 patients a day.

Most patients have to trek to Kathmandu for treatment. Some people, particularly children, die from relatively minor ailments, e.g. diarrhoea on the journey.  Often fractures remain untreated and cause permanent disability. There are many skin conditions, eye and ear infections, bites, serious cuts and stomach complaints. The villagers have a custom of covering cuts with soil, resulting in the cut become infected. Traditional Nepalese medicine, based on plants is often used, but is ineffective. Water supply is poor and leads to water-transmitted illnesses, particularly dysentery, stomach problems and diarrhoea. Lack of toilet facilities results in cases of typhoid. There is still medical reliance on shamans.  Medical resources are limited with no in-patient facilities, x-ray, ECG, ultrasound, laboratory or blood test facilities.

There are 10 underprivileged villages in the Helambu Valley (at a height of 1500-2700 metres above sea level) each with a population of between 200 and 1500. Typically, each village is 5-6 hours trekking distance from the next. There is one large school in Melamchighyang with 250 pupils.  This will provide a good opportunity to promote health and good hygiene practice to the children who attend, and their parents.  A recent development has been the building of a road, offering limited transport from Kathmandu to Melamchighyang, but only in the winter months due to land and mud slides on the tracks for the rest of the year. The communities are mainly Buddhist and Hindu. Every village has a monastery for festivals, weddings, funerals and other occasions. Sherpa, Lama and Tamang are the main castes. Agriculture is the main source of income.

There are many infant deaths and approximately 15-20 unnecessary deaths per year in Melamchighyang. It is an 8-hour journey from Melamchighyang to Kathmandu and with no publicly funded treatment available; there are long and life-threatening delays. Any private treatment is prohibitively expensive.


4. Inspiration

Local children lack effective guidance from their parents and Kanchha hopes to inspire them to follow him and do something for their community and other remote areas of Nepal. Kanchha intends to help local children and the young generation to dream about their future and become a role model for the next generation. He will help the local people to improve their health, train selected students in health education, spread the message of health education, save lives and serve the people of his Valley.

A mother language (Hyolmo) is spoken, some elderly people do not understand Nepali and therefore translation is necessary. Nepal has no tradition of ‘reading for pleasure’. Kanchha would like to promote reading and, in turn, health education.

Kanchha will for ever be grateful to the University of Manchester, the Nepalese Children’s Trust and KetaKeti as well all his sponsors and supporters for giving him this opportunity.  Kanchha’s relationship with the University of Manchester flourishes and discussions about the future continue with a view to them sending doctors and students to support the Project and jointly promoting global health.


5.1 The Project

The following information has been provided and compiled by the nurses based at the Ngendha Rangjen Community Health Centre at Melamchighyang:


Top Ten Diseases:

1.      Falls/injuries/fractures

2.      Gastric

3.      Headache/migraine

4.      Upper respiratory tract infection

5.      Hypertension

6.      Arthritis

7.      Viral influenza

8.      Tonsillitis

9.      Eczema

10.  Conjunctivitis


Major Health Problems:

· Infectious diseases e.g. diarrhoea, pneumonia and tuberculosis                                 

· Prevalence of leprosy is high due to social stigma

· Maternal health, no ante-natal and post-natal care available  

· Malnutrition

· New emerging conditions, e.g. HIV and hepatitis

· Lack of health education and promotion

· Lack of health services

· Rapid population growth


Challenges facing nurses at the health posts:

· No doctors to support and advise the nurses at the health posts           

· Nurses are not allowed to prescribe medication

· Nurses are not trained to diagnose medical conditions

· Inadequate medical equipment, e.g. ECG, X-rays or ultrasound to help them treat patients                

· Inadequate teaching and training to provide up to date knowledge and skills    


5.2 Stage 1 – 2015/16

Between 2015 - 2018 Kanchha will continue to contribute money he earns as well as raise external money for the project to go towards:

· Medical equipment

· Setting up a clinic with a doctor to provide medical services on a daily basis                    

· Promote sex education and birth control

· Promote health and hygiene education

· Develop vaccination programme

· Provide ante-natal and post-natal care facilities

· Train and educate nurses and other health professionals 

· Set up a volunteer programme

· Work with schools to teach health education and establish libraries       

· To create medical record systems

· To provide in-patient facilities for serious cases before referring to hospital              

· To create and maintain book-keeping systems


5.3 Stage 2 – 2016/20

Kanchha will register as a doctor in Nepal and return permanently to Melamchighyang.

With the support of Community Action Nepal, Kanchha intends to use the health posts as bases, aided by the nurses already in post. Each contain two treatment rooms and accommodation for the nurses and are manned by 1/2 nurses trained by British doctors and in training hospitals in Kathmandu.

Ideas for development:

  • To extend medical services to other villages and remote areas in the Helambu region
  • To establish links with hospitals in Kathmandu for the teaching and training of doctors and nurses
  • To perform an audit to publish statistical data of diseases in the region
  • To work with The Nepalese Government and other organisations to improve health care systems in other rural and remote areas of Nepal
  • Develop education and treatment for dental problems
  • Develop education and treatment for life-support
  • Develop the relationship with, and support for Manchester University, who will supply doctors and students and jointly promote global health


5.4     Stage 3 - beyond 2020

·  To enhance building stock, as required

·  To acquire additional equipment, as required

·  To develop specialist training for nurses

·  Develop a newsletter or other communication system


6. Funding

·  Kanchha and Nepalese Children’s Trust to liaise with Community Action Nepal to develop their long-standing medical charitable support for the region.          

·  The Nepalese Children’s Trust will continue to raise funds for the project to develop services and provide equipment.   

·  Support from other sources is being sought to enhance the finances.

·  The nurses and the health posts are currently funded by Community Action Nepal.        

·  As well as currently making substantial contributions from his income, Kanchha does not intend to charge for his services for the first three years upon his return to Nepal.


Equipment required:

Portable x-ray machine:  £5,000, ECG machine

Finger pulse oximeter:  £400

Oxygen cylinder: £400

Diagnostic set: £160

Digital thermometers: £90

Ice packs: £25

Medi-test combi test strips: £102

Doctors’ bags: £40

First aid kits: £300

Colour blindness test: £170

Bandages/dressings: £200

Information leaflets: £220

Sonicoide One Doppler (baby positioner): £330


However small, all cash donations towards services and equipment will be much appreciated.

To donate towards this project, please visit:


If you are a taxpayer, please:

7. Contacts:

Chair: Pam Francis:                    pam_mary_francis@hotmail.com


Secretary: Sandra McKnight: sandra@mcknight.org.uk

Treasurer: Gwenda Culkin:    gwendaculkin@yahoo.co.uk

KetaKeti:                              www.ketaketi.be

Community Action Nepal:      www.canepal.org.uk

University of Manchester:      www.manchester.ac.uk

Kanchha Babu Sherpa:         07463616062