British Ambassador opens Guernsey-funded women’s hospital wing

British Ambassador John Rankin opened a new women’s wing at the Anandaban Leprosy Hospital in Nepal on 4 September.

A leprosy referral centre for the whole of Nepal as well as parts of northern India the hospital, in rural Lalitpur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, also provides general medical outpatient services to the surrounding community.

In 2014 it provided leprosy and general medical services to 24,000 people – 13,000 of them were women.

The women’s wing, which also provides maternity services for the surrounding communities, however, was run-down and urgently needed attention.

Thanks to a £39,972 grant from the Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission the ward has now been rebuilt, with the shortfall for the £48,000 project being plugged by the generous supporters of The Leprosy Mission England and Wales (TLMEW).

Built to withstand earthquakes and monsoons, the new female wing has a 20-bed leprosy ward, a five-bed maternity ward – a vital service for women from southern and rural Lalitpur – post-delivery, recovery and rest rooms and a duty station for nurses.

Mr Rankin, a former solicitor and law lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, and British Ambassador to Nepal, officially opened the ward in the presence of patients, staff and supporters.

Afterwards he said: “Leprosy is still found in over 100 countries world- wide. Last year Nepal had the seventh highest number of new cases diagnosed – 3,524 according to World Health Organisation figures.

“So I am pleased to be visiting Anandaban hospital to see its work in leprosy diagnosis and treatment and to learn about its wider community outreach programmes.

“The Leprosy Mission of England and Wales has been a constant supporter of Anandaban Hospital since its establishment in 1957, working in partnership to assist leprosy care and control.

“I welcome this excellent example of UK-Nepal cooperation and hope that growing awareness about leprosy and early healthcare treatment can continue to help to better the lives of people here in Nepal.”

Sian Arulanantham, Head of Programmes at TLMEW which, along with The Leprosy Mission Nepal, funds the day to day running of the hospital, said: "The Leprosy Mission is honoured that the Ambassador visited Anandaban to open this ward so generously funded by Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission and our supporters.

“The ward survived last year’s earthquake when other hospital buildings were severely damaged and therefore will be essential in maintaining the quality of hospital services, enabling us to continue to treat the most marginalised and help transform lives."

Country Director for Nepal Shovahkar Kandel said: “We were delighted to welcome the Ambassador to Anandaban Hospital as it is certain to help reduce the stigma against people with leprosy which, sadly, still exists in Nepalese society. We are extremely grateful for his support.”

In addition to diagnosis and treatment, Anandaban Hospital provides tertiary services for leprosy complications. It has a training centre where leprosy training is provided for health professionals across Asia and is home to a world renowned leprosy research laboratory.

It also provides technical support to the government through outreach medical camps across Nepal where staff are trained in detection, treatment and reconstructive surgery.

Thousands of cases of leprosy still go undiagnosed in Nepal as people fail to seek help because of the stigma attached to the disease - even though it has been easily curable since 1982.