Photos by Lincoln Potter

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Health & Education

Health

The Kingdom has made great efforts to improve health facilities and provides a free health care to all its citizens. Modern Health Care was introduced in Bhutan in 1960s. However careful attention had always been given to traditional practice and the people’s perception of illness. This has ensured that the modern healthcare services and indigenous medical services developed simultaneously.

Herbal-based, traditional medicine is well established and integrated into general health services and remains a popular form of healthcare. Access to traditional medicine in the country has greatly increased with 31 traditional Drungtshos (Doctors) providing indigenous medical services in all Dzongkhags (Districts). Traditional medical continues to hold an important place in the formal healthcare system as it not only adds an important dimension to the country’s system of health care, but also provides an alternative form of healthcare

Since 1961, the health status of the population has remarkably improved with over 90 percent health coverage with basic services. Over 90 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water and there is 88 percent sanitation coverage. There has also been dramatic decrease in mortality and morbidity. As a result, the life expectancy of 33 years in 1960 has risen to 66 today. The population growth rate has decreased from 3.1 percent in 1994 to 1.8 percent in 2005. More than 50 percent of women in labor are attended by trained personnel.

Bhutan leads South Asia in the use of oral rehydration therapy for preventing deaths from diarrhea and it was the first country in the regions to iodize its entire salt supply, which has resulted in the virtual elimination of iodine deficiency. Bhutan has achieved universal child immunization and diseases such as polio, neonatal tetanus and diphtheria have been virtually eliminated, while malaria and leprosy are under control today.

Education

Until the 1950’s, monastic education was only the form of education available in the country. While monastic education continues to play an important role in Bhutan, modern, western form of Education has been promoted and expanded and is now available throughout the country. Since its introduction, within a period of four decades the government was able to create a modern education system spanning from primary to tertiary level. Enrolments in all level has grown at an impressive rate from approximately 400 students prior to 1961 to 1,26,718 students in 2001 in the 382 schools and institutes. The gross primary enrolment ratio was estimated to 72 percent in 2001, and increasing annually at a rate of 6-7 percent. The increase in the enrolment has been attributed to the awareness of the people of the value of Education.

Sherubtse College, the National Institute of Education at Paro and Samtse, the institute of Language and Cultural Studies, the National Institute of Health Sciences, and the National Institute of Traditional Medicines offer higher education in Bhutan. The tradition of entitlements and welfare in the country has emphasized free education even in the medieval period when the state supported free monastic education. Similarly; in modern Bhutan, education is accessible to everyone with free tuition, textbooks, sports equipment, meals and boarding facility.