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Peptic ulcer common in Laya

Apart from the high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) stomach ailment (peptic ulcer syndrome) is also very common among the Layap community that live in the northern borders of remote Gasa dzongkhag, according to health officials.

Her Majesty the Queen, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck
"Most of the people of Laya suffer from peptic ulcers because of their nomadic lifestyle," a health ministry spokesperson said. "Of the 100 patients seen early this month almost half of them complain of stomach aliments," she added.

She said that this could be attributed to alcohol and tobacco which is believed to be consumed highly in Laya. Peptic ulcer syndrome also caused due to irregular meals. "Since Layaps are nomadic community and herdsmen they spend their time mostly with yaks they do not eat their meals in time thus attributing to stomach ailments," a spokesman said

According to observers Layaps are known to be alcoholic and heavy smokers because of easy accessibility to the northern borders from where they import both cigarettes and alcohol.

The availability of imported brands of cigarette from China was noted with great concern. Referring to the nationwide ban on the sale of cigarettes and the associated penalties the officiating secretary of health, Dr. Gado Tshering pointed out the need to have the matter taken up at the national tobacco control forum.

It was also found that the main cause of ill health particularly in remote areas like Laya and Lingzhi was attributed to poor personal and domestic hygiene.

According to health officials who visited the northern region, diarrheal disease, skin and eye infections were commonly seen in these remote communities.

These were the key issues identified to pay attention during the recent visit to Lingzhi, Laya and Gasa by the UNFPA goodwill ambassador, Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck who also emphasised and discussed about safe motherhood and related issues such as family planning and teenage pregnancy, prevention of cervical cancer, STD/HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, health and hygiene.

During the public meeting in Laya, several member of the community made requests for an additional health worker based on the fact that health workers were away on training or on maternity leave. At present, Laya has two health workers, one male and one female.

The BHU records, however, revealed that not a single delivery had been conducted at the both BHUs in Laya and Lingzhi despite the placement of a female health worker in 2001 after Her Majesty's last visit in Gasa.

In Laya, one maternal death was reported close to the BHU recently. The cause of death was severe bleeding during delivery. The health team also came across a case of teenage pregnancy (14-year old) in Lingzhi.

Her Majesty expressed her deep concern about the high maternal death rates in the country which stands at 255 per 100,000 live births. The main cause of maternal deaths she pointed were attributed to excessive bleeding during delivery and infections. The other causes of maternal deaths, according to health officials, were pregnancies that occurred too close (no spacing), too many, and too early (teenage pregnancies).

During the 15-day tour from September 21 to October 5, 2005, of the remote gewogs of Gasa, Her Majesty met with the members of the multi-sectoral task force (MSTF) of Gasa dzongkhag formed in 2001 to review its activities in advocating HIV/AIDS, STD and reproductive health issues among the general public. The members also requested to supply audio visual equipment to enhance the awareness of the rural population.

According to health officials, the advocacy efforts started in 1999 after Her Majesty assumed the role of UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador. "Since then Her Majesty visited and covered the remote corners of all 20 dzongkhags of the country," Dr. Sonam Ugen of the Health Ministry said.

This article was contributed by Rinzin Wangchuk, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper
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