At least 207 people have died of diarrhoea in the past six months in Nepal after floods ravaged the country. The lack of access to simple healthcare like saline water has been creating havoc. The outbreak has been most severe in western Nepal with 76 people dying in Kalikot district in the last six months, Nepal's official media said Wednesday.
However, health officials fear the toll could be considerably higher as it is difficult to monitor the affect of the diseases in remote villages.
In the last six months, hospitals throughout the kingdom registered over 16,000 cases, a whopping rise since the last recorded outbreak in 2005.
In 2005, the year a political upheaval also shook Nepal with King Gyanendra seizing absolute power, 2,137 cases were reported while 37 people died.
The worst year till now in recent times was 2004, when nearly 20,000 cases were reported with over 400 people succumbing to the combination of diseases.
Diarrhoea and cholera have been breaking out in cycles in the Himalayan kingdom this year. The first cycle struck capital city Kathmandu in April, followed by Kalikot and two districts in the south, Rautahat and Saptari.
The second cycle, breaking out from July, wreaked havoc in Kalikot, remote Humla in the mountainous north, and Terai districts like Dhanusha, Mahottari and Rautahat. The recent epidemic has ravaged the Terai and the west, spreading to at least five more districts. Siraha and Saptari have been the worst affected recently with over 30 people dying this month.
Doctors say after floods people ate dead fish and had no access to clean water, stoking the disease. Manas Kumar Banerjee, coordinator of the Avian Influenza Control Project under the Epidemiology and Disease Control Unit, told the state media that 80 to 90 percent of the victims fell ill due to consuming contaminated water and food and due to lack of sanitation.
Lack of health care professionals and services also contributed to the epidemic in remote villages. However, with the government in the danger of collapsing and battling the aMaoists in parliament, tackling epidemics lies low on its priorities. Health officials began studying only from Monday the causes for the recurring epidemic.
Although the highest number of cases has been reported from the Terai districts, the mortality is highest in Humla, where 37 people died and 250 cases were reported. The remoteness of the mountainous district near the Tibet border with lack of healthcare is regarded as the cause while in the Terai, those who can afford it cross over the border into India for medical treatment.