Kathmandu: Quake-hit Nepal is now grappling with a new challenge - how to deal with post-disaster diseases like diarrhoea and respiratory infections, as water and sanitation are emerging as major concerns.
Health experts fear outbreak of diseases like diarrhoea, acute respiratory infection, eye and skin and health issues, adding to the woes of survivors, who are homeless and are struggling with scarcity of food and water supplies.
Moreover, injuries due to earthquake like fractures, spinal cord injuries, psychological trauma and child health are major issues that are worrying the health experts.
“At the moment, we are worried with post earthquake-related diseases. We are expecting viral and water-borne diseases,” Dr P V Chand, chief of Policy and Planning and International Coordination Committee, Ministry of Health and Population, told PTI.
“We have informed district authorities to gear up for the situation. We are also planning to make people aware of the diseases which could come in coming days,” Chand said. Providing clean drinking water is also a major challenge, as Nepal relies on tankers and wells for fresh water. In the aftermath of the quakes, transport of water has been interrupted and many wells have been damaged, leading to fears of water-borne diseases.
Similarly, sanitation is also a challenge as many bodies are still trapped under the debris and are already decomposing.
In Kathmandu alone, mounds of debris and garbage could be seen as sanitation workers are yet to resume work fully. Hospitals in district capitals, including Kathmandu, are overcrowded and lack medical supplies and facilities.
In its appeal for an aid of USD 415 million, health, drinking water and sanitation have taken the lion's share - of around USD 75 million and 63 million. Another major challenge would be hilly and mountainous districts where the problem could be more serious because of difficulty in accessing the areas after the quake. International organisations like the WHO are coordinating with the Ministry of Health and Population to deal with the issues.
“We are working along with the Ministry of Health and Population. WHO teams have been deployed in all the affected districts and we are also conducting surveillance in camps and provide immediate intervention,” said Damodar Adhikari, programme officer with the Emergency Services Programme of the WHO.
According to the UN, of the 8 million affected people, there are approximately 1,26,000 pregnant women. Of them, 21,000 will need obstetric care in the next three months.