The National Human Rights Commission has taken serious note of the present situation created by the second wave of COVID-19 where citizens are deprived of their fundamental right to life and supply of essential medical services.

It warned that dozens of persons had succumbed to the deadly contagion due to alleged shortage of life-saving oxygen and beds at several hospitals. A press release issued by the rights body said 33 coronavirus patents had lost their lives in Kathmandu, Rupandehi and Nepalgunj on Wednesday and Thursday due to lack of oxygen. According to the NHRC, many private hospitals in Kathmandu valley have refused to admit COV- ID-19 patients, citing acute shortage of oxygen.

"Citizens are dying because of lack of oxygen more than a year after the pandemic owing to inaction of the government in increasing the supply of essential logistics. Even if they are admitted, the hospitals charge exorbitant fees. Similarly, there is alleged shortage of ICU beds, ventilators and essential medicines for patients," it said. The government did not make enough effort to control or avoid the outbreak of the disease and lagged behind in cashing in on the delayed onset of the contagion in the country, thereby worsening the rights situation.

Nepal reported the first case of the virus in March 2020 when many countries in the world had already been passing through the crisis.

The rights body reminded the government about the provision of the right to health enshrined in the constitution and urged the authorities not to run away from their responsibility of ensuring access to health services. Section 3 of the Public Health Service Act- 2018, has also guaranteed every citizen the right to enjoy free basic health services related to communicable diseases. It also lamented that delay in procurement of COVID-19 vaccine was likely to worsen the situation and urged the government to ensure that all citizens were inoculated as soon as possible.

With more patients being deprived of access to medical treatment, it warned that the lives of citizens were at high risk. The NHRC also said that there was black-marketing of essential medical equipment and drugs required for COVID-19 patients. Though the government recently said no one should die of hunger during the prohibitory order that has deprived tens of thousands of poor people and daily wagers of their livelihoods, it has yet to announce a comprehensive relief package for their livelihood.

The NHRC informed that it had already alerted the government about the situation of poor, daily wagers and small entrepreneurs.

The rights body has urged the government to address the problems in health and humanitarian sectors at the earliest.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 16, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.