Research shows that 17 per cent of the population is pushed below the poverty line due to the expenses in medical treatment.

Several citizens have turned penniless owing to expenditure for treatment of long-term diseases, such as cancer which cost huge amount. The dire scenario of citizens can also be attributed to low investment of the state in the health sector and poor access to health care services.

Presenting the research results in the meeting of the House of Representatives, Sustainable Development and Good Governance Committee today, Professor Dr Shyam Prasad Lohani said that 17 per cent of people worldwide are pushed into the cycle of poverty due to investment made for medical treatment.

"In this backdrop, nations should scale up investment in the health sector along with the infrastructure sectors," he said. According to him, investment in health, nutrition and immunisation produces over 16 times results in future.

In the meeting, it was informed that 55 per cent of citizens have been making personal expenditures on health treatment.

Meanwhile, it was informed that not only did the per capita income declined due to contraction in employment and the adverse impact on education and health, but the regular programmes of the health sector related to the Sustainable Development Goals too have been affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The challenges to reducing infant, child and maternal mortality rate as well as the problems of malnutrition, attainment of full immunisation and increasing the access of all to health have hindered the attainment of SDGs.

The incidences of low rate of delivery at the health facilities and the occurrence of epidemics such as cholera have battered the health sector.

"The outcome of investment made in the health sector is good. It's like a rupee spent on a helmet saving Rs 13 in terms of protecting the life of the bike rider," Prof Dr Lohani said.

He said that the Gorkha earthquake, border blockade and the COVID-19 pandemic have adversely affected the progress towards accomplishing health-related SDGs.

A study report shared on the occasion showed that 38 per cent of human resources working in the health sector had been facing problems such as mental stress, depression and insomnia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 2 2021, of The Himalayan Times.