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NEPAL: Danger of more deaths due to diarrhoea outbreak

Author/Source : IRIN
Publish Date :Thu, 25 Oct 2007

KATHMANDU, 25 October 2007 (IRIN) - Health workers are increasingly
concerned about the risk of a diarrhoea outbreak in the hills and
southern plains of Nepal if adequate medical supplies, health assistance
and sanitation are not provided.

"Due to a lack of medicines and other necessary supplies like saline
water, especially in remote areas, a large number of people could suffer
from this disease," said government health officer, Rakesh Thakur. He
expressed concern that in the past few months, dozens of people have
been killed due to diarrhoea, following floods and landslides around the

Many remote villages in districts in the eastern Terai and western hills
are vulnerable, as they lack medicines, doctors and sanitation
facilities, according to local government health officers.

In the eastern Terai district of Saptari, nearly 20 people have been
killed since July when heav y floods devastated the area, destroying
houses, farms and displacing many poor families, according to the Nepal
Red Cross Society (NRCS).

In addition, more than 20 people have died in the hill district of
Kalikot, 500km northwest of the capital, Kathmandu, considered one of
the most flood-prone areas, according to NRCS. More than 500 people from
this village alone had been affected by the disease.

NRCS officials say there is a need for more humanitarian support for
those at high risk of flood-related diseases, and diarrhoea is the worst
threat, especially for young children and infants.

Since July, the monsoon floods have hit nearly 49 districts. The floods
in the Terai and landslides in the hills affected more than 580,000
people, destroying 71,000 houses, displacing 24,368 families and killing
168 people.

The problems became much worse with heavy water logging for a long
period, recurring torrential rainfall thereby cutting communication
links, including roads and telephones, all of which made humanitarian
assistance delivery difficult.

In the worst affected districts, residents are still vulnerable to
diarrhoea and cholera, but they lack access to basic services, said
local aid workers. They explained that clean drinking water supply,
roads, bridges and livelihood services are still in poor condition.

"The number of patients is growing every day and there is a need for
more saline water and medical supplies," said Satya Dev Giri of
Sagarmatha Zonal Hospital in Rajbiraj.

"The main problem in remote villages is a lack of even a basic knowledge
of sanitation and clean drinking water," said a local health volunteer,
Saraswati Shah. She added that if only the villagers were aware of how
to prevent diarrhoea, they would not even require a doctor or medicines
to combat such a relatively easily curable disease.