Summer usually tests the disaster response capacity of Nepal, when the monsoons trigger water induced disasters. This year Western regions were most severely affected by floods and landslides. Unlike in 2002 and 2004, where a large number of families were displaced, the figures for this year were much less, totalling about 1,300 displaced families. The attention and prompt response by several agencies bear witness to the increased recognision of disaster management in Nepal. Acknowledging the importance of health action in crisis, many stakeholders involved in public health in Nepal, proposed that strengthen its work and expand its activities. These sentiments were strongly expressed at the development partners to discuss the future direction of WHO Nepal. A team from WHO Headquarters and the Regional Office was in Nepal to revise the draft Country Corporation Strategy outlining the activities of the WHO country office for the next six years. These positive signals from partner agencies will contribute to enhancing EHA's new CAP programme.
RECENT FLOODS AND LANDSLIDES IN NEPAL
Several districts predominantly in the Far-Western, Mid-Western and Western regions experienced floods and landslides during the latter part of August and begining of September. The worst affected districts were Banke, Bardiya and Achham. A total of 75 people died according to Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS).
NRCS coordinated the rescue and relief work with government counterparts. A coordinating committee, representing the Chief District Officer (CDO), the District EHA Health Officer (DHO), NRCS, UN and NGOs were organised in Banke district to facilitate a joint response. Initial assessments were carried out by NRCS meeting and the Rapid Response Teams operating under the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD). According to these assessments, food, non-food and essential medical items were requested from donor organisations.
As per the request of EDCD, WHO donated medicines for approximately 1,000 people. The medicines were transported from Nepalgunj to Achham by NRCS. Furthermore, EHA sent a team to the flood affected districts in Banke and Bardiya to assist in assessments, coordination, surveillance and gap-filling. These districts were chosen, as NRCS teams had reported diarrhoeal diseases, eye infections and other minor ailments among the affected people.
Although UN and NGOs were supporting health camps in the area, no active disease surveillance system was in place. The EHA team found that the disease surveillance and vector-control systems in the areas needed strengthening. However, no outbreaks were reported.
The major obstacles faced while carrying out rescue and relief work was access and communication to remote areas. This delayed relief operations by a few days and contributed to ad hoc distribution of relief items.
Assessments indicate that shortage of food supply could be a long term problem in the affected areas. has appealed for USD 32.5 million to house, feed and provide other necessities for the flood victims. WFP has pledged USD 500,000 to provide food for a month in the affected areas. Furthermore, DFID had pledged Nepal Rs 2.4 million to assist in food distribution.