Ganesh Saud, 29, a resident of Sigas village of Baitadi district, 800 kilometers far west of the capital, is yet to recover from the shock of death of his four year daughter Sunita Saud. She died from diarrhea a year ago.
Sunita Lama, 26, a resident of Lokanthali, near Kathmandu, is too recovering from trauma of death of her five year child caused by diarrhea.
“I am very much concerned about the quality of water. I cannot spend a lot of fuel just to boil the water but I cannot drink it either without boiling it,” said Lama, whose daughter died because of contaminated water.
Lama and Saud are not alone. Tens of thousands of people in various parts of Nepal are living such trauma after the loss of their loved ones.
According to WaterAid Nepal, Nepal has to spend a huge amount of money to supply of safe drinking water to all. Presently, the availability of safe drinking water is continuing to decline. Out of 80 percent access, only 50 percent people get safe drinking water.
If Nepal cannot provide drinking water to all its citizens, what is the rationale behind claiming that Nepal is a country of abundant water resources. (See box)
People living in far west and mid-west are most vulnerable as they don’t have other choices but to use whatever water is available to them. As the month of April approaches, it has already created havoc and uneasiness in mid and far western regions where diarrhea epidemic has been an annual disaster over the last many years.
Although Nepal has already celebrated the World Water Day by organizing a week long program from March 22 to March 28 calling to increase the safe drinking water for all its citizens, people living in far western and mid-western regions are yet to have any respite as the water supply situation has not changed. Even the Constituent Assembly accepted the access to drinking water is a fundamental right but the trauma of Saud and Lama families is yet to come to an end and nobody can guarantee that the situation will change this year.
For the last two years, a large number of people in far west and mid-west had to live in panic during the month of April and May when water born diseases like dihheria emerge as a killer due to contamination of water. As the situation remains the same, nobody rules out the possibility of the same repetition. The poor families living in slums in the capital and other urban areas are too vulnerable.
More than 15 died of diarrhea in Baitadi district last year. According to District Health office in Baitadi, of those who died, three were residents of Sigas VDC, while the others were residents of Gajari, Thalakada and Shiling VDCs.
Not only children, even youth and old are not safe from diarrhea. A 70-year-old, Taradutta Awasthi, of Belapur-8 died of diarrhea in Dadeldhura. More than 30 people are affected in Belapur-7 and 8, according to Shumsher Bahadur Bista, a local health worker.
Last year, eight people died of diarrhea in Dadeldhura. With the arrival of summer, an increasing number of diarrhea patients are swarming the district hospital. The relevant District Public Health Offices said people are being increasingly affected by diarrhea in Darchula, Doti and Bajhang districts as well.
Such deaths are also reported in the urban areas like Kathmandu, Bhadrapur, Biratnagar, Mahendrangar and Dhangadhi.
The year 2009 was a year of trauma in far west when more than 282 people lost their lives to a diarrhea epidemic.