When the death of locals of diarrhea in remote Doti district in west Nepal was making headlines, the news of eight people dying of dysentery in another remote village in Gorkha district over the last 10 days has once again highlighted how frail our health system is and how people have been deprived of even the basic human rights.
Eight people, including six children, have died of dysentery in Prok VDC of Gorkha district and around 30 people have fallen sick, most of them reportedly children. According to the locals, those affected complained of headache, stomach ache and vomiting. Adding insult to the injury, the villagers in Prok are helpless as they cannot take the sick to the district headquarters, which is a five-day walk. The news has come at a time when the diarrhea death toll in Doti district has reached 10 on Thursday with thousands affected, with some still receiving treatment. These incidents are basically caused due to the use of contaminated water, as cholera has been found the culprit in many cases.
These recent incidents have proved how poorly our health system is faring despite millions of dollars in donors’ money being spent and health sector being one of the priority areas of the government. Many questions have been raised, time and again, about how the donors’ money has been wasted with very little impact on the lives of those in need. These recent examples of diarrhea and dysentery are basically caused by poor hygiene and lack of awareness, which also relates to people’s poor financial condition. There are many international and national non-governmental organizations run under donor funding and have been involved in awareness building activities. But these efforts have hardly made any impact as people in remote areas continue to suffer. What is even more worrying is that it is not just the people in the remote villages of Doti and Gorkha districts who are suffering; cases of cholera has also been seen in the capital.
Despite this grave situation, the government’s concerned department seems quiet blasé about the whole issue. Reports say that the officials working at the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) only put forward data which shows that the number of people suffering from the disease has decreased in the past few years. But their lack of proper efforts is glaring as the impact of their awareness campaign fails to bear fruit. Take for example a situation in Doti. After reports of deaths, the EDCD handed over a bar of soap, five chlorine tablets and a packet of ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) per family, which is not at all enough to save one’s life. There problems galore—poor health facilities, lack of access to health centers and above all the poor financial conditions of the population. However, the concerned government agency seems to have forgotten this reality as it has failed to make any significant impact on improving this dismal situation.
Billions of rupees are spent on creating awareness on various health-related problems every year with major focus on severe diseases like HIV and cancer. But people in the villages are dying of even minor illnesses due to lack of awareness and proper facilities. Therefore, we urge the government to take immediate steps to make people understand the importance of good hygiene and proper sanitation and to provide them with access to basic health facilities