Submitted by Ben Ayers on Fri, 2009-05-15 06:47.
Working abroad isn’t always easy on the stomach and after ten relatively sickness-free years in Nepal, I developed a good and robust case of typhoid fever. I was trapped in the throes of a high fever, headache, and stomach cramps that kept me delirious and in bed for over a week, and will take weeks or even months more to fully recover. While this is a lesson in diligence regarding staying healthy and not drinking the water even if you have been running around for a decade, my week in bed has taught me a great deal about the nature of where we are working, and the strength of our organization and staff on the ground.
I was extremely fortunate to have access to the best medical care available in Nepal, and some of the best travel-medicine doctors in the world. Blood tests and IV antibiotics. Time spent in spotless waiting rooms with National Geographic magazines. However, the vast majority of Nepal’s citizens don’t have access to any significant health care or medicines at all. Typhoid – which was, at the end of the day, merely an inconvenience for me, can easily kill or incapacitate someone for months if it goes untreated. The communities where we work are also much more vulnerable due to a lack of available nutrition and sanitation. While I lay in bed, I began to understand another aspect of why our toilet construction projects in the remote village of Gudel are so important – it is not simply providing a service and a means of being cleaner, but indeed our work prevents an untold amount of preventable human suffering.