EDITORIAL: Provide instant relief

The homeless families will not be able to plant paddy if they do not have a roof over their heads before the onset of the monsoon

The pre-monsoon dust storm left a trail of destruction in Kailali and Kanchanpur districts in the far-west Thursday evening, rendering hundreds of families homeless. Two persons were killed while 84 others were injured in the storm that lasted for about two hours. According to Kailali District Disaster Management Committee, 7,844 persons were directly hit by the natural dust storm, and 2,216 thatched houses were destroyed. They are now spending sleepless nights without any provision of food and makeshifts under the scorching heat. Fierce wind with a speed up to 96 kilometres per hour blew away the roofs of many homes and school buildings in both the districts. This is the second deadliest wind storm after a tornado leveled most of the thatched houses in Bara and Parsa districts, leaving 28 persons dead on April 1. The central government has assigned the Nepali Army to build homes for the homeless families in Bara and Parsa. In Kailali and Kanchanpur, it is mostly the freed Kamaiyas who have been hit the hardest.

Weathermen at the Meteorological Forecasting Division (MFD) have blamed the moist air from the Bay of Bengal meeting a strong low-pressure system in the west for the trail of destruction. Admitting its technological weaknesses, the MFD said it had not predicted such a windstorm would take place in any part of the country. The MFD officials said it was a local phenomenon of the pre-monsoon period, when cumulonimbus clouds develop in the sky. Cumulonimbus clouds are a major cause of windstorm, thunderstorm and hailstorm, which generally develop in the sky in the afternoon or evening. It gradually started moving towards the central region of the country, including the Kathmandu Valley, which also witnessed a fierce storm Friday morning. As many as 26 people were also killed in UP, India after a severe dust storm and lightning Thursday evening.

Three days have already passed since the massive storm rendered thousands of people homeless. But no government agency, especially from the local and provincial governments, has been seen providing relief materials to the affected families. In this hour of emergency, the local and provincial governments, in close coordination with the Centre, should provide makeshift tents, food and water to the affected families so that they can prepare themselves for the fast approaching monsoon likely to hit the country within a week. The federal government must provide necessary funds and relief materials to the affected families, as it did to the people in Bara and Parsa. The homeless families will not be able to plant paddy if they do not have a roof over their heads before the onset of the monsoon. Restoring the life of the people back to normalcy should be the topmost priority of the three tiers of the government. Besides, learning lessons from these two incidents in as many months, it has now become imperative that the MFD install an advanced weather forecasting system so that the people could be alerted in advance about the natural disaster likely to hit an area. On the other hand, the federal government must come up with a long-term plan to rehabilitate the families affected or displaced by a natural disaster, be it a windstorm, a flood, a landslide or an earthquake.

Alarming suicides

Nepal’s suicide rates are alarming and on an increasing trend. According to Nepal Police, 5,317 people committed suicide in 2017-2018. The figure was 5,124 the year before. It is apparent that mental illness is not a priority of the Nepali government, when people still die of ailments such as diarrhea and dysentery. But with the increasing number of suicides year after year, it is high time mental health is given due attention by carrying out a survey to understand the extent of the problem.

There are so many factors that lead to suicidal tendencies - unfilled demands, high ambitions, parental pressure to perform well as well as stress at work or home. Inability to talk about these problems openly leads to depression, ultimately developing a suicidal tendency. An understanding of why people develop mental illness and creating awareness about it could help in mitigating the problem. In nuclear families where both the parents work, it is necessary that they spend time with their children to look for signs of depression. Where feasible, counseling services in schools, colleges and in the community would be a big help in treating depression and other forms of mental illness.