Leap into action

The Tarai residents are not always as lucky as their counterparts in cities and towns across the country when it comes to accessing health amenities. Now the summer season is round the corner, vector-borne diseases have already started afflicting people in Sarlahi district. On an average, three new kala-azar patients reportedly come to the district hospital for treatment. The health centre, however, is not sufficiently equipped to deal with the rising number of patients. It has run out of medicines and kala-azar patients are now forced to either remain at the mercy of the disease or import expensive medicines from India. In Nepal, the medicines for this disease is distributed for free but patients complain that shortage of it at Sarlahi District Hospital has forced them to import them. The Tarai region is also prone to Japanese encephalitis, malaria and lymphatic filariasis. According to one earlier estimate, kala-azar, a disease transmitted by sandfly, is prevalent in 12-13 districts in the plains of Nepal.

Although the Ministry of Health (MoH) has classified these four as priority vector-borne diseases, a mighty lot remains to be done in this regard if they are to be brought under control. The heat and humidity in the plains and the traditional Nepali meal, which normally is far from balanced, further compound the problem. And the lack of treatment means that the healthy population too remains at a greater risk of contracting this malady. The government, which the hospital staff complain of being indifferent to their plea for more medicines, must spring to action without further delay. This would not only save precious lives but also the resources. If it cannot provide free medicines, the government must make alternative arrangements like supplying subsidised medicines for the poor. Lethargy and lackadaisical approach on its part would ultimately prove to be costly. And the possibility of the disease assuming epidemic proportion cannot also be ruled out altogether.

Now that one of the quartets has already surfaced, authorities will also have to get ready to fight the onslaught of the other three which will strike with a vengeance with the rise in mercury and the subsequent rainfall. Prevention strategy and better sanitation measures will have to be introduced and awareness campaigns on the the benefits of living in clean surroundings launched in the Terai villages. But the need of the hour is to provide medicines to those who have already fallen victim to the disease. The MoH must gear up to tackle the scourge of the vector-borne diseases. Nearly 90 people succumbed to these diseases last summer alone. Everything must be done to prevent this from happening again.