Nepal fac­ing ‘med­i­cal cri­sis’ as sup­plies run short

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Bindu Ghimire’s chemo­ther­apy ap­point­ment is ap­proach­ing, but sup­plies of the drugs the 61-year-old des­per­ately needs are in short sup­ply as a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in her na­tive Nepal deep­ens. Protests at the border with In­dia have al­ready led to crip­pling fuel short­ages in the land­locked Hi­malayan na­tion, and now med­i­cal sup­plies are also run­ning short.

“So far, the medicine had been avail­able, but the phar­macy is not sure if they can pro­vide it next time,” the 61-year-old’s son Shashi Shekhar Ghimire said. “I don’t know what I will do if we don’t get it,” said Ghimire, whose mother has stage two colon can­cer and needs a chemo­ther­apy ses­sion ev­ery 21 days.

“It is get­ting very dif­fi­cult.” Nepal is heav­ily de­pen­dent on its gi­ant neigh­bor for fuel and other sup­plies, but lit­tle cargo has crossed the border since protests against a new con­sti­tu­tion broke out in late Septem­ber. Demon­stra­tors from the Mad­hesi eth­nic mi­nor­ity have been blockad­ing the main Bir­gunj cross­ing ever since, protest­ing a new con­sti­tu­tion they say leaves them po­lit­i­cally marginalised.

Move­ment across other border check­points has also slowed to a crawl, prompt­ing fuel ra­tioning and forc­ing the gov­ern­ment to start sell­ing fire­wood as res­i­dents run out of cook­ing gas.

Who is to blame for all this is a mat­ter of dis­pute. Nepal’s gov­ern­ment ac­cuses In­dia, which has crit­i­cized the new con­sti­tu­tion, of re­tal­i­at­ing with an “un­of­fi­cial block­ade”-a charge New Delhi de­nies. “The is­sues fac­ing Nepal are po­lit­i­cal in na­ture. They are in­ter­nal to Nepal and the Nepalese lead­er­ship has to re­solve them through di­a­logue with ag­i­tat­ing par­ties,” said In­dian for­eign min­istry spokesman Vikas Swarup at a brief­ing on Thurs­day.

What­ever the ex­pla­na­tion, the Nepal Chemists and Drug­gists As­so­ci­a­tion says around 350 cargo trucks car­ry­ing medicines are stranded at the key cross­ing point. “We are suf­fer­ing from a short­age of im­ported life-saving in­jec­tions and vac­cines,” said Mri­gen­dra Shrestha, pres­i­dent of the as­so­ci­a­tion. “Medicines are cru­cial. We are now try­ing to air­lift emer­gency sup­plies.” Mean­while the head of Bir hos­pi­tal-Nepal’s old­est-said both fuel and vi­tal drugs were run­ning short. “Oper­a­tions have be­come dif­fi­cult with­out fuel. If this block­ade con­tin­ues, we will have a med­i­cal cri­sis on our hands,” Swayam Prakash Pan­dit told AFP.

Land­locked Nepal im­ports 60 per­cent of its medicines, and most of them come from In­dia. Even those that are lo­cally pro­duced have been af­fected by the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis, which comes just months af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake that killed nearly 9,000 peo­ple. Most of the fac­to­ries are lo­cated along the southern border with In­dia, where protests against the new con­sti­tu­tion have been fiercest, and many have been forced to close. Those that do re­main open are strug­gling with a short­age of raw ma­te­ri­als and pack­ag­ing. —AFP

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