Nepal: Government failing to curtail rural diarrhoea deaths – health workers

Neglect of the rural health system and poor preparedness result in thousands of avoidable diarrhoea-related deaths annually in Nepal, health analysts warn. “The diarrhoea epidemic has repeated again due to the government’s lack of effective preventive measures which we have been reminding the officials of every monsoon,” said Prakash Amatya, director of NGO Forum for Water and Sanitation.

Most deaths occurred in remote villages in the mid-west region where a large percentage of the population remains vulnerable due to poor sanitation, unsafe drinking water and illiteracy. Many are uneducated about basic hygiene and healthcare.

In addition, there are issues of access [impassable roads] and logistics [lack of electricity].

[…] While much of the mid-west was affected, worst hit was Jajarkot district (400km northwest of the capital), where 106 people have reportedly died since 1 May [2009], according to the District Public Health Office, followed by Rukum, about 300km northwest of Kathmandu, where 25 people died between 29 June and 13 July [2009]. Deaths have also been reported from the region’s remote Dailekh, Salyan, Dang and Doti districts.

Nearly 14 percent of the country’s 27 million people live [in mid-west region], despite limited access to health, education, roads, telephones, electricity, water supply and sanitation services. The region has long been isolated from development initiatives, held back by a decade-long armed conflict and political instability.

According to UNICEF, about 13,000 children under five die annually from diarrhoea because of poor hygiene and sanitation. A government report, Nepal Country Plan for International Year of Sanitation 2008 estimated that only 46 percent of the population had access to basic sanitation. More than 14 million people, mainly in rural areas, do not have access to latrines, states the report, while over 30 percent do not have access to potable water, according to the Department of Water Induced Disaster Prevention.

“This problem would have never existed if more attention was paid to improving health hygiene and sanitation situation in the rural areas,” Pitamber Sharma, director of the disaster department of the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS), said.

[…] But according to the UN: “It doesn’t help to blame but to look at what needs to be strengthened, what could have been done in terms of prevention and to make this a priority for our development partners,” said Wendy Cue, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Source: IRIN, 17 Jul 2009

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