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  Fighting an epidemic without medicine  


MORK, Jajarkot, July 20: ”If you have brought medicine, please give it to me,” implored Kale Budha of Lewa, Dashera-7 upon meeting this scribe. “I am suffering from diarrhea, and so is my wife,” he added.
A group of villagers joined in the conversation. All of them had one demand: medicine. They complained that despite learning from the radio that medicine and doctors had been sent, they had neither seen medicine nor doctors.

The medicine and medical professionals are confined inside the temporary health camps set up here. But even the camps are under immense pressure owing to a heavy influx of patients. And medicine is in short supply even in the camps.

Though there are about 30 government health centers and temporary health camps in the district, many villages are located so far from them that patients choose to go to a nearby pharmacy instead of taking the long walk to the health centers and camps.

The pharmacies charge money for medicine, unlike the health centers and camps where medicine is provided for free. Those who don´t have money are dying in lack of medication.

Bahadur Budha of Lewa said 11 people have diarrhea in his village, all of whom went to a pharmacy for treatment. “People shouldn´t die just because they don´t have access to medicine provided by the government. Pharmacies offer the only help,” he said.

The temporary health camp set up in Thalaha is two hours´ walk, while Dashera Health Post is four hours´ walk from Lewa.

Bhakta Bahadur Budha of Jungathapachaur-9, said though villagers saw medical supplies being transported through the village, not a single pill was given to the villagers. “Mules carrying medical supplies pass our houses, but we never know where the medicine goes,” he said, adding that despite spending Rs 5,000 for treating his mother at Suprabhat Medical, a pharmacy in Mork village, she hasn´t recovered.

However, many, like Dalsure B K, 54, of Suwanauli, have lost their lives just because they couldn´t arrange money in time. B K died of diarrhea within 24 hours.

B K´s neighbor Bhuwan Nepali, who reached the health camp in Thalaha after walking for five hours, said, “Though there was a pharmacy at an hour´s trek from the village, B K died because his family didn´t have money.”

Locals say medicine and health professionals have yet to reach Salm, Thalaraikar, Jungathapachowr, Sim, Jhapra, Karkigaon, and Archani villages, among others.

Though pharmacies have saved lives in villages that are still awaiting a response from the government, many villagers have spent everything they have to get the treatment.

Padam Damai, 25, of Archani-1, who had left his village to buy rice, ended up spending Rs 14,000 for treatment after he fell ill on the way.

According to Purna Mahatara who operates Suprabhat Medical, Damai had to be injected 99 bottles of saline.

“We cannot distribute medicine for free, as we paid for it,” Mahatara said.

Transaction records at the pharmacies offer an indication to the financial burden that villagers are having to bear.

Suprabhat Medical sold medicines worth Rs 500,000 in the past two months alone, according to Mahatara.

Similarly, Bishnu Medical located at Manghat sold Rs 90,000 worth medicine in the past one month, according to proprietor Sher Bahadur Khatri.

On an average, a patient is spending Rs 1,500 to get treatment for diarrhea.

Medical workers ascribe the continuing spread of diarrhea even two months after its onset to weak medical service delivery by the government.

“Had the government sent medicine and health workers in time, this wouldn´t have graduated to an epidemic,” said Khatri, and Assistant Health Worker.

“Instead of broadcasting news about how much medicine and how many health professionals have been dispatched to the district, the government should have aired programs by the radio telling people what to do to protect oneself from diarrhea,” said Khadga Bahadur Budha of Mork.

During monsoon, the human waste is swept to the rivers, thus creating a perfect breeding place for a diarrhea epidemic. But there is no campaign from the government to stop this practice, he said.

Health workers also allege that rice and pulse distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) has contributed to the epidemic. According to Mahatara of Suprabhat Medical, some patients complained that they suffered from diarrhea immediately after consuming pulse distributed by WFP.

The WFP distributed rice and pulse in February in 12 VDCs under its Food for Work program. Of them, Rokayagaon, Bhagawati, Dashera, Ragda, Nayakbada and Kortang VDCs are in full throes of the epidemic.

Diarrhea deaths in midwest
  • Jajarkot - 128 dead, 2000 sick
  • Rukum - 25 dead, 500 sick
  • Dolpa - 6 dead, 176 sick
  • Surkhet - 6 dead, 215 sick
  • Dailekh - 4 dead, 70 sick
  • Salyan - 2 dead, 145 sick
  • Rolpa - 1 dead, 33 sick
  • Total - 172 dead, 3139 sick

Published on 2009-07-20 19:33:20
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