| Click here for a map of the region
It could be said that Ladakh is a region that never should have supported a human population. Life here has always been difficult: it lies between the main Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, with the Tibetan Plateau bounding it on the east. It is a land of complex geography in the rainshadow of the Himalaya, making it one of the few inhabited high-altitude deserts in the world. Most of the population lives between 3,200 and 3,800m but a few villages and the nomads of eastern Ladakh inhabit lands up to 4,500m. It is bitterly cold during the long, 5-month winters, yet being a desert, it can also see 38°C in summer months.
"This year, the Village Education Committee voted to use its small
to build a bomb shelter instead of a toilet at the school."
Village near the Line of Control
Conflict has had a large negative impact on the region. The 1948 war cut a third of the northern region off from Ladakh, and 1962 saw another third of its eastern territory lost to China. Continued fighting along the Line of Control disrupts village life, destroys the environment and robs villages of its young men.
Global climate change has also impacted Ladakh severely. Some areas have lost over 50% of their glaciers (their only water supply) and villages there can only plant between 30-60% of their fields. As the economy is almost wholly dependent on subsistence agriculture, people are hungry.
"No one ever came here before you. No tsokspa or NGO.
No field officer. No administrator from Leh. No doctor."
Kurimbik women when Dr. Bill visited in 2003
HEALTH Inc. largely works in the remote villages where other NGOs don't go. We serve the people most impacted by conflict, climate change and environmental degradation and where they lack basic social services (functional schools and health services). As our programs stress building skills and linkages over building things, we create sustainability (not dependency) in these forgotten villages.