600 Doctors in Nepal outnumbered by 400,000 faith healers

Nepal NCP 002

The largest single killer of children in Nepal in 1984 is dehydration due to diarrhoea. 30,000 children die from dehydration every year. There are only 600 doctors in Nepal with 17million people. In contrast there are over 400,000 Nepali faith healers… each one of them is advising the mother of a child with diarrhoea to withhold liquid from the child. In the rainy season they can be giving out this advice eight times a day. Their logic is that if you do not put any liquid in, then nothing will come out. As a result most children are dying of thirst.

UNICEF worked on a graphic to help non literate faith-healers remember how to mix salt and sugar and water into a solution that will save a child’s life. A small playing card that has a graphic illustration of three tea glasses of water needed to mix with a handful of sugar and a three finger pinch of salt is designed. (There are no universal spoon sizes or measuring devices suitable in rural Nepal at this time) The mix is called Nun Chini Pani and we test it to see if the faith healers would be interested in carry such a card after they have been taught how to make the mix. We stress that this will help their business as healers. In discussions with the faith-healers one of them suggests that if UNICEF would like healers to keep these cards they should put the image of Durga the faith-healers favourite God on one side. We immediately realised the potential of this idea and work out a practical design that will compliment the ongoing efforts to combat child deaths due to diarrhoea. It is now a design that we know that no faith-healer will ever destroy. Over a million cards are printed and distributed at training sessions.

NCP card 2
George McBean 2012