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December 02, 2010

Motivators: Nepal's Khadka Bahadur Basyal Sarki

From MLI's Learning Collaborative Forum in Ethiopia, this is the first in a series of interviews with leaders in the MLI countries about what has motivated them in their work. Khadka Bahadur Basyal Sarki is Nepal’s State Minister in the Ministry of Health and Population.

 Q: What is your background?

 A: I am a member of the Dalit community in Nepal, who are members of the lowest caste, making up about one fourth of the population in the country. When I was younger, I served on the staff in a health facility, and what I found in the hospital was that the Dalits did not use the services much. They would go to traditional healers who have no scientific background, and so many people were dying unnecessarily from treatable diseases.

 My community is not only poor, but they have no land, they have no education at all, and no one was caring for them. They were very much backward, you cannot imagine how backward they were.

 Q: So what did you do?

 A: I quit the job to do some social service work to serve them. I started a non-governmental organizational, Nepal National Dalit Welfare Association, and I started to serve those communities. In the meantime, I had contact with Save the Children-US, they supported us, and encouraged me to assist the community.

 When I visited the Dalit communities in different parts of the country, the people were demanding everything because they had nothing. They had no education, health services, or jobs. I couldn’t do it all, so I prioritized on health issues through my organization. I started convincing them to go to the health facilities in case of illness. I tried to educate people how to use the facilities. The government was also trying to reach them, but they weren’t doing enough.

 Q: What are you doing to change that as Minister?

 A: As a State Minister, I am trying to push an initiative for social health insurance. It will definitely be free for the poor, for the Dalit communities and other communities. I am insisting on that. We don’t have anything concrete yet, but we are working hard. Second, there are many major things to improve in the quality of services. We are addressing many of those services. Third, because there are many treatable diseases that mostly affect the poor, such as diarrhea, I want to make sure there is enough health staff in areas of greatest need.  So we are working on retaining doctors and other staff. And fourth, I’m working with other Ministers – such as Agriculture and Physical Planning – to persuade my colleagues also to invest in health-related programs. Oh, one more thing –

I’m asking the donor community to give priorities to the communities at risk, including the Dalit community, those who are still far behind. We’re not doing enough to reach them.

Other Motivators:

Amara Koroma, director of financial services, and Dr. Samuel A.S. Kargbo, director of reproductive health in Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

Roman Tesfaye, director general of the Policy, Plan & Finance General Directorate in the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia.

Dr. Issa Bara Berthe, chief of statistics and information division at the Ministry of Health in Mali.

Dr. Aminata Kanu, MLI country lead, Sierra Leone.

Dr. Bocar Mamadou Daff, director of reproductive health in Senegal’s Ministry of Health and Prevention.

Photo credit Dominic Chavez.