Govt fails to stem cholera spreadA lack of coordination among the government agencies remains a major problem in controlling cholera in Kathmandu Valley despite recurrence of the disease every year affecting hundreds of people.
A lack of coordination among the government agencies remains a major problem in controlling cholera in Kathmandu Valley despite recurrence of the disease every year affecting hundreds of people.
The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) and the Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation (MoWSS) are primarily responsible for dealing with cholera and other water-borne diseases.
Although the MoHP is responsible for catering services to the affected population and controlling disease transmission, taking preventive measures is the duty of the MoWSS since contaminated water is a major source of the outbreak. The old water and sewer pipes that cause seepage of sewage into piped water, primarily blamed for the emergence of cholera, are to be maintained by the MoWSS.
Since April this year, a total of 142 patients from Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur are reported to be of cholera, the highest number in six years. Among them, Lalitpur had 110 patients while 24 were said to be in Kathmandu and one in Bhaktapur.
In Lalitpur, the patients were mostly from Lagankhel, Balkumari, Patandhoka, Bhaisepati, Ekantakuna, Dhobighat, Imadol, Harisiddhi, Thaiba, Khumaltar and Bungamati. Bhaisepati, 24 cases, and Lagankhel, 36 cases, are the two major problem areas.
In Kathmandu, Thankot remains the worst affected area with 12 cases while other patients come mainly from Teku and Kalimati.
Despite the growing number of cholera patients, the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) of the Health Ministry said the reporting of cases by the hospitals does not suggest an outbreak of the disease. Dr Bhim Acharya, director of the EDCD, said cholera is endemic in Kathmandu Valley, meaning that the presence of the bacterium, Vibrio cholera, could affect the population anytime.
“The cases are sporadic in nature so the chances of the disease transmitting in epidemic proportion are low,” said Dr Acharya. “But people should take precaution.”
Officials from the MoWSS admit the lack of coordination but they pass the buck to their subordinate bodies. “We cannot write directly to the Health Ministry. So we have asked the Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited [KUKL] to coordinate with them,” said Shanker Prasad Subedi, spokesperson for the Water Supply Ministry.
Milan Shakya, spokesperson for the KUKL, said they have urged the MoHP to report if any patients are found to have contracted cholera due to piped water. “We take great precaution in the treatment plant but we cannot guarantee the same quality by the time it reaches people’s homes.”
The threat of cholera increases during the rainy season in areas close to wetlands, lakes, water puddles, paddy fields and sources of stagnant water.