Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Geetaji's short and sweet visit to UNICEF Nepal

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta was in town last week for a Regional Management Team Meeting.  We in UNICEF Nepal had the opportunity to host a visit for Ms. Rao to our office and also for a brief field visit to Kavre district (east of Kathmandu valley).   While she was here Ms. Rao also paid a courtesy call to the President and Vice President of Nepal.  It was a short but sweet trip.. filled with laughter and the big beaming smile of Ms. Rao.


Ms. Rao visited UNICEF Nepal Country Office on 24th April 2013.  The staff had made preparations to show her,  in a span of two  hours, a glimpse of UNICEF programming in the country.  Diversity & Development almost seemed like the theme of the day starting from a presentation from the Deputy Representative  Dr. Will Parks to the issues displayed by various programme sections in a "marketplace" kind of display under the huge sprawling tent.. to the ethnic wear worn by the staff that reflected the diversity in the office too!



Just before her arrival field office staff present in Kathmandu get ready to sing the national anthem "सयौँ थुङा फुलका हामी एउटै माला नेपाली" -- (we are a hundred flowers woven into a single Nepali garland).  This is the anthem that in 2007 replaced the old one that basically sang praises about monarchy!  Here are a few staff from the Mid & Far West, Central and Western and Eastern region field offices...
 ... Upon arrival Geetaji is offered auspicious 'sagun' greetings according to Newari traditions by Bimala and Anjali from UNICEF Bharatpur office. ...
 ... Geetaji and Hanaa share a word...
.. All the programme sections had put up special display (playacting, multimedia presentations or show & tell) all around the tent, to explain a bit of their work.  A 'pregnant' woman below is brought to the 'health post' on a stretcher in one of the acts to demonstrate continuum of care... 

... and  WASH colleagues' innovation was a conversation between an angel and a foetus on the sanitation conditions of the village she is going to be born in soon.. She received assurance from the winged one that the village was gearing up to declare "ODF- open defecation free', so she need not worry!
Geetaji poses with the now young adults who had been associated with the armed conflict as children, and who  have now been fully reintegrated back in society and are pursuing education and work...  On the occasion Sita (in pink sweater) presented Geetaji with the "छापामार युवतिको डायरी" (young female guerrilla's diary) book written by a former combatant...
After the the marketplace round, it was turn for Geetaji to speak.  That is when the rains that had been stayed due to prayers to all the Gods, suddenly poured down almost deafeningly!!

We must learn to innovate; learn to skip technology in order to be more effective," said Ms. Rao Gupta in her address to staff of UNICEF Nepal. "SMS services are already boosting birth registration, and technology and innovation can create learning tools and apps for children and adolescents. It works perfectly because children are more comfortable with, and easily adopt and adapt to new technology and learning methods.”
Staff Association presented Geetaji with a typical Nepali gift of thanka that to her amusement also featured her and the various sites she would visit in Nepal, including the UN House and the President's office and sites in the field.
Will Parks holds the thanka aloft for the ladies... !
 Before leaving office, a final picture with all the staff present that afternoon...
... The next day Ms. Rao paid a courtesy call to the Vice President Rt. Hon. Mr. Paramananda Jha. The Vice President lauded UNICEF's role in ensuring that children are not malnourished and stressed that sanitation and education can, and must go hand in hand...
Group picture of the Vice President, Geetaji and Hanaa along with
 Namaste Lal  Shrestha (WASH Specialist)
The final shake... following a request to UNICEF to ensure that its programme benefited all regions of the country from the mountains to the plains...
... On the 26th just before departing for the field trip to Kavre, Geetaji paid a courtesy call to the President of Nepal Rt. Hon. Dr. Ram Baran Yadav at his office in Sheetal Nibas.  Hanaa Singer and Rupa Joshi accompanied her...  Geetaji praised the government in the excellent progress made by Nepal in achieving the MDGs, and how all must now keep their eyes on the SDGs.  She also lauded the example set by the country in its battle against malnutrition, in declaring schools as zones of peace and the country's exemplary social movement on sanitation...
"I really appreciate the contribution made by UN agencies like UNICEF and WHO to protect the health of Nepali children and mothers, " said the President, as he reminisced about his stint as health minister a couple of decades ago. 
"Yes, Nepal has made huge leaps in many field, despite the conflict," added the President. "The health of our children and mothers, especially, is much better than others in the region.  However, we know that we could have done much better, and fared much better  if our governance was in track." 
 On UNICEF's plea to ensure that the new Constitution be made the most child-friendly one, the President gave assurance that whatever has already been enshrined in the interim Constitution regarding children's rights would not be lessened, rather enhanced, in the  new Constitution...
...  before leaving...
.. The next stop after lunch in Dhulikhel  was Dapcha VDC in Kavre district.  The Himalaya  unfortunately didn't make a show, hidden behind a misty haze.
Below.. a hazy southern view of the hilltops of Dapcha...
Being welcomed into the health facility by the Chairperson of the Health Management Committee, Mr. Subarna Shrestha...

Mr. Bhagirath Adhikari, health post incharge, while tracing the history of immense community support in the development of the facility, also credited the "Appreciative Inquiry" training provided by UNICEF many years ago which  inspired them to take their roles even more seriously.  He also mentioned a maternal death that shook them into action into having birthing facility available in the village...

...Chairperson Shrestha talks about the development of the health facility and the stress on maternal and child health...
...Child club member Sita explains how the club conducts extra curricular  activities in the school and community by collecting donation on birthdays.  "I gave rupees 50 ( less than a dollar) on my last birthday!" she said.
... Next it was meeting with the 'miracle women ' of Nepal, the Female Community Health Volunteers , FCHVs, (few of the 50,000 spread across the country), who are the front line health workers...
... Exchanging greetings below...
... Framed with the UNICEF logo of mother and child, Roshani Pariyar  and Niru Lama with their sons.  Both gave birth to their children at the centre.  There is 100 per cent institutional delivery in the village...
 Geetaji, with her pursed 'maternal ' lips,  gets drawn to the babies.  Here with Dr. Asha Pun, Health Specialist too...
.. Roshani Pariyar's 6-month-old son offers a delightful distraction at the meeting..

... going for the glasses...

.. testing motor skills...
.. attractive colours catches the baby's eyes...
.. and then it is the turn of Niru Lama's sleepy 8-month-old son...

.. exchanging laps...
... the FCHVs open up their bags to demonstrate the extent of work they do.. all voluntary... from treatment of diarrhoea, to respiratory infections (which they treat with antibiotics), to family planning and caring for newborn babes and attending on pregnant and new mothers... They receive an initial training of 18 days and then subsequent training for every other added skil, as well as refresher training packages... 
FCHV Laxmi Shrestha demonstrates how initially woul- be mothers would hide iron tablets under the eaves so that they could make excuses for not taking them.  She went on to explain how the FCHVs kept on hammering the importance of the pills, and the result of successful compliance now.

Laxmi also displays the various IEC materials they use to impress upon mothers the importance of nutrition, handwashing, etc.

When the FCHVs were explaining to Geetaji about how they use a simple timer to  track babies' breathing and thus help to diagnose acute respiratory infections,  Bhubaneshwari Shrestha opened her bag and produced a song she'd penned during the training on 'penumonia" and sang it for the guests. It talks about how ot time the breath rate of babies, what to do if they think the baby has infections and how to call the mother and baby back on the 3rd day to guage the progress. It ends saying, "lord know we're from different places and we met each other during the pneumonia training!"
(The camera is a bit shaky initially but gets better towards the end)

.. Again a group photo at the end of the interaction with the FCHVs
... Next it was the turn to meet the members of the Paralegal Committees (PLCs).
 They spoke about their protective role in the community and the number of cases of domestic violence and other issues they have helped mediate, solve and refer in their community. 
UNICEF initially created the community-based Village Paralegal Committee Programme in 1999 as an anti-trafficking effort. Now, these women’s committees address all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation against women and children.

They demonstrated their modus operandi by enacting a case that they had recently handled concerning an unfaithful husband, and his  feuding mother and wife...

 "We are volunteers, no doubt, but we work with our heart and soul, because we are also women," said Kamala Paudel, Chairperson of the Dapcha PLC. "Sometimes our work invites threats and intimidation, but we forge on!
A thumbs up for protection from the group!
Geetaji talks with Maya Lohani, the Women Development Officer of Kavre
Before the visit ends, Geetaji is escorted around the health facility.  Dr. Asha gives an overview of the birthing room, including UNICEF's software and hardware support...
... Penning down a few words of appreciation...
.. a final word with the auxiliary nurse midwife.. as the chief of UNICEF's Bharatpur office Mr. Purushottam Acharya looks on...
...and a word with Protection Consultant Anju Acharya...
.. and goodbyes to the health facility staff and members of the health management committee...
  Driving back to Kathmandu there was a short stopover at an Urban Out of School Programme (UOSP) class in Banepa. Geetaji is greeted by many UOSP facilitators who were then undergoing refresher training in the town.
..."We are 100 flowers woven into a single Nepali garland " once again...
The children (including a few UOSP graduates) singing a song.  Most of the children in the UOSP class are either working children or live on the streets..
...Geetaji gestures along with one of the songs...
... and observes children playing alphabet bingo...
Peter Mason, Hanaa and Geetaji chat with 14-year-old Uma Giri. Who says that she would want to study, but has so much work to do.  Her aim is to become a teacher, though...
.. A group shot before departure for Kathmandu...
.. A rushed whirlwind trip in Bhaktapur, one of the three cities in Kathmandu Valley.. Here in front of the Golden Gate and the 55-window Durbar (palace).  Accompanied here by Krishna Dongol and Robin Giri 
.. And fionally the cherry on top of the cake.. In front of the Nyatapola (5-storied pagoda) temple in Bhaktapur, wrapping up the visit...
...and that is the beginning of the wait for the next trip!

Most of the pictures taken by Prakash Mathema, and few by Chandrashekhar Karki, Kiran Kumar Pantha and  Rupa Joshi

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