Residents of Dolakha. Image by Hanna Ingber Win. Nepal, 2011.

During our trip to Dolakha, a rural district in Nepal’s mountainous region, we had the chance to have tea with a local journalist who talked to us about the history of the area and how the country’s 10-year armed conflict affected the community’s health care, infrastructure and general development.

The conflict in Nepal, in which a Maoist insurgency battled the state, had a deep impact on Dolakha as it did on other rural areas, said Rajendra Mananadhar, who has worked for Kantipur, a national Nepali-language daily, for the past 11 years. The conflict ended in 2006 when the Maoists agreed to give up their arms.

The insurgency affected everything from factories to hospitals to schools. The Maoists destroyed police posts, the forestry post, village development committee buildings, infrastructure for agriculture including a research center, roads and post offices in Dolakha, he said. The Maoists even bombed a secondary school and kidnapped a health center chief, he said.

Mananadhar said strikes often got in the way of business. The Maoists would call a strike and demand that all shops and businesses close down.

And yet, people did try to persevere through the conflict.

“Despite the fact of Maoist insurgency, people went to school, started own businesses—thinking the insurgency will continue for years, we must continue,” he said.

Roads, buildings, and police posts were destroyed in the Dolakha district of Nepal during the Maoist insurgency. But the area has now begun to show improvements in infrastructure and healthcare.

If the conflict hadn’t occurred, development would likely have doubled in Dolakha during that time, Mananadhar added through a translator, health journalist Atul Mishra, who works for the same newspaper out of Kathmandu.

Instead, the district of 400,000 people continues to have deep pockets of poverty. Pulitzer Center intern Anna Tomasulo and I visited homes in Thami communities that did not have electricity, running water, toilets or proper sanitation.

Mananadhar said the Thamis, of which there are about 20,000 in Dolakha, have long been one of the district’s most disadvantaged communities.

The conflict ended five years ago, and the area has begun to come back to life, he said.

“”We’re in the process of rebuilding,” he said.

Since the war, the district has built up its infrastructure such as roads and hydropower projects. Rural health in Dolakha is steadily improving as village health posts become more active, and health workers focus on early marriage prevention and offer free health camps. Now doctors and health workers are no longer afraid to work in rural areas.

And yet, there is a long way to go. See my earlier post on the state of Dolakha’s roads. Mananadhar said that what the people of Dolakha need most now is education and general awareness about healthy living.

Follow Hanna’s journey through Nepal on Twitter: Hanna_India.

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