Inhuman blockadeNepalis are being deprived of their right to live due to shortage of medicines, fuel
He would have been saved if only he had been brought here just an hour ago.” These painful words of the doctors have been ringing in my ears ever since my 54-year-old uncle passed away due to a cardiac arrest as we were unable to take him to hospital on time during the recent three- days strike in the Valley. It shook me to the core and drove me to carry out a small survey of my own to find out the impact of the blockade on medical services.
I began my three days survey by visiting around 50 pharmacies located nearby major hospitals including the pharmacies of the hospitals as well. I managed to visit major hospitals such as Shahid Gangalal Health Centre, Manmohan Cardiothoracic Vascular and Transplant Center, Teaching Hospital, Patan Hospital, Om Hospital and Research Centre, Kanti Children’s Hospital, Norvic Hospital and Bir Hospital. I met a few concerned doctors and hospital authorities as well to collect information about the difficulties they faced due to fuel shortage resulting from the blockade by India. The findings of the survey are pretty alarming. Most of the pharmacies inside the hospitals and outside informed me that there is an acute scarcity of life-saving drugs. These mostly consist of medicines needed in Intensive Care Units including medicines required for anaesthesia. The medicines are: NS 100, saline, Esmolol, Phenylpherine, injectable antibiotics, Vancomycin etc. Medicines used for instant cardiac treatment, eg Labetalol, Adrenalyn, Metformin, Vasopressin etc are also in short supply. The pharmacies and hospitals also informed me that they are also gradually running out of stock of regular medicines. Most of the medicines are imported from India. And even medicines manufactured in Nepal cannot be delivered due to fuel shortage.
On talking to a few people in the hospitals, I found out that due to the rationing of fuel by the government, it is being increasingly difficult for them to continue running the hospitals. For instance, hospitals are finding it difficult to provide pick up and drop services to their staff. Doctors are also running out of fuel in their vehicles—this has created difficulties in running the out patient department services. Generator dependent services like ventilator monitors, OT, Cath lab will be seriously affected hospital are not provided with uninterrupted 24-hour electricity.
Based on the information provided by the concerned authorities and my own observation, the flow of patients in almost all the hospitals have dropped by more than 60 percent. This is scary as it implies that many might be at the risk of dying or they might even die due to their inability to access medical services in time due to the near halt of public transportation services. Every minute counts and timely medication can save a person’s life.
Shortage of friends
Operating ambulance services alone cannot cater to the needs of all the patients throughout the country. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the hospitals and clinics receive life saving drugs in short supply at the earliest by air if necessary. Doctors and nurses must continue to be provided with fuel or regular pick up and drop service for smooth medical services. At the same time, the government must make special arrangement by providing additional vehicles to hospitals to function as ambulances. It makes me wonder whether the Health Ministry or other concerned authorities have even given thought to this crucial issue linked with the health of the masses. Have they monitored the state of hospitals at this crucial time and prioritised their needs?
It is deeply saddening India has imposed a blockade on Nepal even as the country is still recovering from the shock of the devastating April earthquake; the earthquake victims are still living under tents and we continue to experience aftershocks. By preventing the entry of medical supplies and fuel, India has imposed an inhuman blockade on Nepal.
Therefore, it is high time that the international community show solidarity to Nepal and speak on our behalf on humanitarian grounds. The Nepalis people are being barred from the the right to live as they are deprived from getting medical treatment on time due to the shortage of medicines and fuel. Through this article, I would like to call upon all the international missions in Nepal, which must have also witnessed the situation on the ground, to raise a humanitarian outcry. Kathmandu has been parlaysed due to over 16 days of blockade. One can only imagine the difficulties faced by people in the Tarai who have been facing a banda for almost two months now. The leaders must realise that the people have suffered for far too long and they must resolve this problem as soon as possible.
Rana is an environmentalist and founder of Save The Environment Foundation