EDITORIAL: Be prepared

Nepal’s diplomatic missions in the Gulf countries must work in coordination with the host countries so that the Nepali workers can be rescued in an emergency and without delay

The cutoff of diplomatic relations by some major gulf countries with Qatar last week has put thousands of migrant workers in precarious position with the rising cost of living and the possibility of mass layoffs from the construction sites.

Among those are many Nepali workers, mainly working in the construction sector which is in full swing keeping in view the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar.

As the neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia and seven others have cut off diplomatic relations and air and land route connectivity, prices of daily commodities such as food, water and medicines have gone up sharply, beyond the purchasing capacity of an unskilled migrant worker from Nepal who hardly manages to save about 800 to 900 riyals on an average.

If the current political situation in Qatar continues unresolved for a couple of months to come, many Nepali workers have no other option but to return home empty handed. The cost of living in the Gulf nation will rise due to the blockade from the neighbouring countries and will also hit hard the flow of remittance in the country.

Nepal received a total of Rs. 665 billion as remittance from the major labour destinations in the fiscal 2015-16 and Qatar’s contribution to it stood 30.8 percent.

Qatar is one of the major labour destinations for Nepali migrant workers. An estimated 500,000 Nepalis are working there in the construction sector which is very hazardous and risky to their life.

Despite these difficulties, the number of Nepali workers working in this oil-rich nation is increasing due to the construction work going on there, according to Nepal Rastra Bank. But the flow of remittance is decreasing every passing year as a result of a drop in oil prices globally.

Slowing down in oil price in the international market has also affected the inflow of remittance, which is the major source of income for a country like Nepal that has been able to maintain its balance of payments and keep afloat the national economy.

With diplomatic tensions on the rise in the Gulf region, especially with Qatar, the number of Nepali workers seeking work permits in the tiny Gulf nation has declined from the earlier 800 on an average to just 350 per day.

Contraction on Qatari economy will definitely affect the demand of unskilled labour from Nepal and other countries. But the Department of Foreign Employment has continued the policy of issuing labour permits unless the recruiting companies cancel the permits.

Keeping in mind the unfolding diplomatic rows of neighoburing countries with Qatar the Government of Nepal must not only keep watching the unfolding situation, but also make adequate preparations for rescuing the Nepali workers if the situation goes from bad to worse as it happened in Yemen a couple of years ago due to war.

Nepal’s diplomatic missions in the Gulf countries must work in coordination with the host countries, such as taking latest briefing from the foreign ministries, so that the Nepali workers can be rescued in an emergency and without any delay.

The government can also utilize the welfare fund created collecting fees from the migrant workers for their well-being and security.

Provide vaccines

Chitwan saw four persons diagnosed with scrub typhus in the last four months. Scrub typhus is a serious non-communicable disease which is spread in humans by the bite of fleas, mites, lice or tick bites.

Although there are medicines to treat the disease, still it can take human life. Vaccinations are available to protect oneself from the disease. Scrub typhus was first detected in Nepal around two years ago.

Then about 101 people were infected with it. Eight people died after contracting the disease.

There is a shortage of kits to diagnose this ailment in the labs in the country. They should be made available in all districts which are particularly prone to the disease like in Chitwan where as many as 533 persons were detected with this disease in the first nine months of last year and five people succumbed to the disease.

The government has committed to test scrub typhus for free but it has not been able to do so. As a result, those with symptoms of scrub typhus which includes fever and headaches are unable to have tests carried out.

Private hospitals on the other hand charge an exorbitant Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 2,500 to perform such tests.