Nothing moving

The people of Jajarkot district in the Mid-western region are yet to come fully out of the tragic effects of the diarrhoeal epidemic, even months

after the government had announced, and even undertaken to some extent, relief measures hovering around basically the supply of medicines. The

package programme for the Jajarkot people amounting to medicines against diarrhoea and cholera apart, the thrust should have been on the supply of quality food stuffs and the arrangement and management of potable water for safety reasons. But, it is a fact that starvation is looming in districts that are short of food every year, including Jajarkot. If the epidemic was one side of the coin, the scarcity of food must be seen as the other one that seemingly came up reflecting the oversight of the government. The inspection visits by ministers and other high officials can be seen, on retrospect, as merely an eye wash that seemed to show the seriousness with which the government was looking at the human tragedy resulting all because of a preventable disease. It also laid bare the preparedness level, which always comes in for mention whenever there are talks of strategy plans for health and the like.

Jajarkot may be a district that is remote and the infrastructure underdeveloped, yet the fact remains that its problems, whatever they may be, has to come under the purview of the government. Even in the case of the diarrhoea and cholera epidemic, the government response cannot be said to have been encouraging. Even with the army of medical and other requisite personnel at service, it is bewildering that it took such a long time in getting the epidemic to ease, though not plugged for good. The people need food, but the food coffers are empty as the Nepal Food Corporation (NFC), the traditionally big supplier of subsidized rice, is not an active player these days. The government should have mobilised the NFC in the aftermath of the tragic epidemic, but as it is, the blame is being shifted to the “negligence of the contractors”. How far this is true needs further corroboration, but in the meanwhile something must be done urgently so that the district people can avail the food supply without which life itself would be threatened.

The dividing lines are clear between life and death for the people who have been so much highlighted all because scores were succumbing to diarrhoea and cholera. But, it seems to have taken a back seat in the minds of the ministers and ministries concerned. This goes but to show the myopic working style of our leaders as well as the bureaucracy. It was discouraging with the preparedness aspect missing, but even now no contingency measures seem to be in place. In all this, it is best to remember that the political parties have been chalking out the power equation rather than feeling the pulse of the people to provide the remedy which is food, potable water and medicines to combat the predictable diseases, and nutritional needs. It only makes one thing clear, that is lip service. Now, it is a call to the government not to make a mockery of its duties and responsibilities, which means the humanitarian obligations.

Hope all around

A vaccine for the pandemic influenza H1N1 is expected to be made available in the developed countries by the end of September of this year. Since this is a new disease, scientists are working hard to come out with the vaccine. That international donors are going to do something so that the vaccine reaches the patients in the developing countries comes as a welcome bit of news. This virus is very contagious and has also become a pandemic. Nepal so far appears not really prepared to cope with the threat that this killer disease can pose. So far, the health authorities have only been maintaining vigil at airports and border check posts.

Here, the advice of the director general of

the World Health Organization should be heeded. She has advised the authorities here to make

the best use of the resources available. At present, the country appears to be adequately equipped to deal with the possible epidemic. However, should the pandemic be on a large scale the country would not be able to cope with it. Again now that the vaccine for H1N1 now is in the offing, it can be hoped that these reach the needy people here as soon as possible, thereby, averting disaster.