Print Edition - 2015-04-21  |  Development

fearing for the worse

  • Half-hearted response to swine flu outbreak in Jajarkot has raised fear of the disease spreading in neighbouring districts as well

Apr 20, 2015-

The government’s delayed and half-hearted response to H1N1 influenza, popularly known as swine flu, outbreak in Jajarkot has not only affected the district but also put the lives of thousands of people living in surrounding areas at risk.

The epidemic has been gradually spreading to other neighbouring districts because hospitals remain under-prepared and the district administration lacks precautionary measures. A similar incident of diarrhoea outbreak in 2009 in Jajarkot had taken 350 lives.

Ominous signs show that the neighbouring districts may be on the edge of an impending disaster. Jumla and other surrounding districts have been witnessing a surge in number of people suffering from viral fever.

Dr Surya Man Limbu, acting medical director of Karnali Academy of Health Sciences, says many people are coming to the hospital with the same symptoms seen among Jajarkot folks. “H1N1 influenza might have entered Jumla for patients are visiting the hospital with complaints of similar symptoms,” said Limbu.

A slow response of the government, mysteries surrounding the disease and the failure to establish a cause, remoteness of the affected areas, denial of the doctors to go there and affected people’s lack of access to proper medical care, food and sanitation have raised fears that the outbreak might get worse in weeks to come, say experts.

Cases of H1N1 influenza have been reported in several neighbouring villages of Mugu, Dailekh, Rukum and Dolpa. Rajan Adhikari, public health officer of Mugu, confirms that there has been widespread reports of cough and fever. “We have increased vigilance as medical tests have confirmed H1N1 strain in some of the patients,” said Adhikari.

Worse, the government has not been able to provide adequate

health care support to people in Jajarkot, four weeks after the outbreak. Sushila Rokaya of Paika, Jajarkot, could not get basic health care in her village as the only auxiliary health worker was on a sick leave.

Sushila, who was brought to the district headquarters after three days of viral treatment, said many patients were suffering without proper health care. Her story is just a tip of the iceberg. Most people remain without access to basic health

facilities. Many others take a tough journey just to find health posts and hospitals.

The Post’s reporters say Mid West and Far West districts are ill prepared to tackle the disaster due to inadequate human resources and medications. At a time when the government spends billions in providing various medicines at free of cost, the public still fails to get their hands on necessary medications. Patients are often given date expired medicines due to lack of effective monitoring.

Locals in districts adjoining Jajarkot have raised serious concerns over the authorities’ indifference in preventing the disease from spreading. Government officials, however, say they are doing their best. “We are increasing our vigilance in border check points and requesting people to use masks,” says Prashuram Nepali, senior auxiliary health worker at Mugu.

The government’s persistent failure to tackle such disasters has not only shed light on the condition of the country’s health system but also raised questions on how health funds are being utilised, say experts.

The government had allocated Rs 33.69 billion for the health sector, 6.5 percent of the total budget in fiscal year 2013-14. The total health expenditure was Rs 22.84 billion a year before that. In fact, the government has been allocating a significant portion of the funds to Jajarkot in recent years. The government had spent Rs 35 million alone to make the district the first open free defecation district in Bheri zone.

Mahesi Mahato, sub-division head of the district’s drinking water and sanitation project, says that there has been little improvement, if any, in areas of sanitation. “The disease outbreak explains that our efforts have made little progress,” says Mahato.


(With inputs from Bhim Bahadur Singh and Durga Lal KC in Jajarkot, Krishna Gautam in Surkhet, Raj Bahadur Shahi in Mugu, Motilal Poudel in Surkhet, Biplav Maharjan in Salyan)

Published: 21-04-2015 09:54

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