For almost ten years Dr Ray Hodgson, an Australian specialist gynaecologist has travelled to and from Nepal with a team of volunteers in the hope that he can somehow make some impact on the lives of the desperate women there. After finding very little in the way of women’s specialist health in remote Nepal, in 2010 he founded the charity organisation, Australians for Women’s Health (A4WH). The objective of A4WH is to improve the appalling state of women’s health in Nepal. Their current focus is the construction of a Mothers & Babies Hospital in East Nepal. To aid this enormous undertaking and raise the $500K plus needed, Dr Ray has written a book about his experiences over the last 9 years aptly called, Heartbreak in the Himalayas. The book is due to launch in Sydney next month on Friday March 8th, International Women’s Day.
Dr Ray’s story details the adventures and challenges during a four-week surgical camp in a remote area of Nepal. The story is based on actual events that he and his volunteer group have faced over the years. Challenges are both medical – the team work in dilapidated buildings with very limited supplies, enduring frequent power blackouts as well as managing the cultural challenges in what is a highly patriarchal country. Heartbreak in the Himalayas presents the realities of life for an ill-equipped medical team who often have worked in tents under flashlights with team members giving their own blood in order to save their dying patients.
The magnitude of women’s reproductive health problems in Nepal is enormous. This is largely due to a deep-seated culture of gender discrimination from early childhood, coupled with limited access to health services. Nepal has extremely high levels of maternal and perinatal mortality – a mother dies every four hours and a baby dies every 20 minutes. Nepalese women have very high levels of uterine prolapse – a debilitating condition that plagues 10 percent of Nepal’s 13 million women. Severe prolapse is distressing, both physically and emotionally and women are often cast out from their families and homes. These women suffer symptoms including urinary incontinence, dragging pain, infection and great difficulty when undertaking simple tasks like sitting or walking.
Dr Ray says, “You can’t help being moved by the heartbreaking stories of these women describe. We wouldn’t stand for this in our country and we shouldn’t stand for this in any country. But most people are blind to the appalling conditions these women and babies suffer. I want this book to open people’s eyes, and to realise how very lucky we are in Australia. And I want people to realise that every single one of us can help these desperate people.”
According to the World Economic Forum, the 2016 Global Gender Index reveals that Nepal ranks 110th out of 144 countries on gender parity. UNESCO found that 23 percent of men in Nepal had never attended school compared to 44 percent women who never attended school. UNESCO also found that 50 percent of students in primary school will drop out before secondary school with high dropout rates for females mainly caused by child marriages.
Heartbreak in the Himalayas gives readers a priceless insight into Nepal’s true culture and its intimate relationship with the health of its people. Dr Ray Hodgson weaves his way into the heart of this mesmerising country, and shines a light on the hopes, dreams, and heartbreaks of the local people who are usually hidden in statistics.
The book will be available for purchase from the Australians for Women’s’ Health website https://www.a4wh.org/ from Friday 8th March 2019. All proceeds from the sale of the book will directly fund the construction of the Mothers and Babies Hospital. The book will be launch at The Freedom Hub in Waterloo, Sydney on Friday 8th March (International Women’s Day) from 7pm.
About the author: Dr Ray Hodgson is a specialist gynaecology surgeon based on NSW Mid North Coast. Ray has had a long-standing passionate interest in overcoming the inequities of global women’s health. Ray graduated from Sydney University 1981 and underwent his surgical training in both Sydney and London. He is currently an Associate Professor at University of NSW where he is actively involved in education of medical students, registrars and consultant surgeons. Ray is also an examiner of trainee specialists at Royal Australian New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. More recently Ray was appointed Director of Medical Education at UNSW Medical School, Port Macquarie Campus. He is also the Rotary Director of International Health, based in Port Macquarie.
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