Paper: “Like Yam Between Two Stones”: Remembering Healthcare at War in Nepal (1996-2006).

Paper details

Paper authors Bertrand Taithe
In panel on Rethinking the History of Attacks on Healthcare
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


The Nepal civil war, 1996-2006 opposed a rural Maoist insurrection and a succession of monarchical regimes and governments backed by the West. Despite a shift in perception of the conflict post 9/11, the conflict remained largely internal to Nepal with limited international contributions. Over that same period, health indicators in most domains recorded significant growth including in the most affected areas of the country. Building on human rights datasets of incidents and systematic oral history among three regions affected to varying degrees by the conflict, this article argues that the political nature of the conflict ensured health care facilities were instrumentalized by both sides of the conflict, while medical practitioners had to manage the demands of insurgents and security forces. Through 80 interviews conducted in 2020-2021 in situ, this article engages with the health paradox of a conflict which did not follow usual patterns, while it considers how the war, violence and mental health consequences of a decade of terror are now recalled and made sense of. With the new republic now run with former insurgents, militants now remember the war in sometimes nostalgic ways when it comes to their centrality in the Maoist project. The healthcare provisions arising from the war fail to match promises or even some of the wartime resources deployed by insurgents keen to demonstrate their commitment to health provisions as a common good which needed to be made more accessible.
Finally, this paper reflects on the absence of the concept of attacks on healthcare in contemporary analyses, at a time when the concept was gathering support internationally. In this sense this article charters a paradox and a pre-paradigm shift analysis of a seemingly outmoded political insurgency.



Bertrand Taithe