Cause of death: UnknownMigrant workers from South Asia are found in almost all countries around the globe. Movements from South Asia to East and Southeast Asia are steadily increasing, with Malaysia as the primary destination.
Migrant workers from South Asia are found in almost all countries around the globe. Movements from South Asia to East and Southeast Asia are steadily increasing, with Malaysia as the primary destination. Since 2013, Malaysia has been the primary destination of all migrant workers from Nepal in terms of numbers. Although the Department of Immigration keeps records of all migrants with a valid work permit, estimating the real flow of migrant workers in the country is difficult due to the fluidity and relativity large presence of undocumented workers.
A majority of migrant workers in Malaysia are low skilled or semi-skilled. In addition to pre-departure orientation, some migrants undergo further training which are usually specific to the job. Despite this prerequisite, numerous deaths of migrant workers are reported each year, prompting the Ministry of Health to launch an investigation into the real cause, especially in cases where an apparently healthy person would go to bed, only to be found dead the following morning. According to the data published by the International Labour Organisation, Malaysia topped the list with 546 cases of deaths from unknown causes, followed by Saudi Arabia with 34 deaths and Qatar with 14 deaths. This means that more than 5,000 Nepali migrants have died working abroad since 2000.
The cause of death of 795 Nepalis who lost their lives in various jobs has not been ascertained, and 849 are reported to have died of natural causes. The cause of such deaths have been mysterious in many cases as a majority of them are listed as ‘natural death, heart attack or cardiac arrest’ to avoid insurance claims and other obligations.
“Our people are dying in large numbers, and it’s a shame that we don’t know the real cause of death,” said the then health minister Gagan Thapa. “All of those who died abroad had been given a clean bill of health by our institutions. Yet, many of them would perish a few months after landing in a foreign land.”
The ministry has written to the Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS) to begin an investigation. A PAHS team under Dr Kedar Baral has started holding talks with the Department of Labour and is planning a study trip to Malaysia.
“We will talk to public health officials and doctors there and observe the conditions of Nepali migrants. We will also collect data on the post-mortems done among Nepali migrants,” said Dr Baral. The ministry has also asked the PAHS to establish a dedicated Foreign Employee Health Centre to investigate various health aspects of migrant workers. Talks are on to appoint health attachés at Nepali missions in countries where the number of Nepali migrant workers is high.