Where is the outrage?

Published On: May 23, 2018 02:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Shortage of Jeevan Jal

Nepalis living in remote corners of the country have to die due to shortage of oral rehydration solution (ORS), called Jeevan Jal. This is an outrage and it should be a matter of serious concern to the health ministry and other public authorities that we have yet to provide even the most basic medicines to public health institutes when they need them the most. When people suffer from snakebites we do not have enough anti-snake venom to save their lives. Basic drugs like paracetamol goes in short supply in health posts in the rural hills and the plains and people lose their lives as a result. As a matter of fact, such stories make the headlines almost every year. How long can we afford to bear with the situation which could be prevented with some simple timely measures? People in Rautahat now suffer from this repeated tragedy of sheer negligence of our government systems. 

With the rise in temperature, the number of people suffering from diarrhea and other water-borne diseases has increased in villages across the district. But all health posts of the district are currently dealing with the scarcity of Jeevan Jal, the most popular brand of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS). Almost all of 92 government health centers in the district are facing this problem.  Patients are being offered Zinc tablets, which can never be the substitute for Jeevan Jal, a life-saving medicine whose demand increases in summer every year. The government has allocated funds to the local units for purchasing medicines but the work has not been done. Even the District Hospital at Gaur does not have sufficient drugs for the patients. This sorry state of affair must end right here and right now. 

More worryingly, government health facilities are dealing with this problem even a year after we re-started producing Jeevan Jal in the country. In May, 2017, state-owned Nepal Drugs Ltd (NDL) had resumed operation after a hiatus of eight years. In a phase-wise manner, we were told, the company would produce 15 different types of most-consumed medicines, even intravenous fluids. The company had also come up with the slogan ‘Quality Medicine at Reasonable Cost’ with the goal of making it possible for each and every Nepali citizen to procure vital drugs. One year later, we do not seem to have changed the situation a bit. According to a rough estimate, there is a demand for around 1, 00,000 packets of Jeevan Jal per week. But NDL has not been able to produce as much leading to a huge gap between demand and supply. As the monsoon is approaching fast, we are likely to face massive drug shortages. It is during the monsoon that more patients of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases flock to public health facilities for treatment. Failure to provide them basic drugs will be tantamount to letting them lose their lives under the government watch. The local representatives, in coordination with the government bodies, must ensure that each public health facility is equipped with vital drugs.  To let the people suffer even at this day and age in lack of basic medicines would be making mockery of people’s constitutional right to health and wellbeing.

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