New mothers who survived landslides in Myagdi deprived of nutritious food

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While the authorities have paid heed to waste management and controlling infectious disease, nutritious food for nursing mothers has to be managed locally, say authorities.

By Ghanashyam Khadka

Ramche Village in west Marang was one of the villages worst affected by the landslides earlier this month. While Ramche, a predominantly Dalit settlement of about 30 households, is mourning the deceased, it is also faced with a graver problem: lack of relief material and substandard living conditions at the temporary shelter.

In the aftermath of the disaster, it’s the new mothers who are disproportionately affected. The rainfall has been continuous and the health of the newborns and their mothers are not taken care of. On the day the landslide struck, Sabina Gharti was just ten days into her delivery; Harimaya Gharti had given birth 40 days ago; and Giru Gharti had been a new mother for only about 70 days.

Sabina said that she couldn’t save anything from her house that got buried in the debris. While she has a roof over her head at the temporary shelter in a public building, she hasn’t changed her clothes ever since the landslide that struck her village three weeks ago. Neither does she have warm clothes for her infant, she said.

“Our home, food and all of our belongings are lost,” she said. “It’s hard to take care of my newborn.”

The landslide on July 9 claimed nine lives in Ramche Village. Four people injured in the incident are currently undergoing treatment in Pokhara. Almost a month into the disaster, a food shortage looms large as relief material is thinning out in the village’s temporary shelter.

As many as 50 families from Ramche and elsewhere in Dhaulagiri Rural Municipality are currently taking shelter in and around the Dalit Public Building in Ramche. While the new mothers are housed in the building, others are staying in makeshift tents.

Because of the continuous rainfall, it’s getting harder to collect firewood and water, while relief material is being used up, Gore Sunar, a youth from the village, said.

Ramche lies at a remote corner in Marang, which is itself one of the remotest places in Myagdi. The rocky topography means limited production of corn. So when rescuers reached the village, it was already reeling under a food crisis. Even today, the new mothers and their infants haven’t had nutritious food.

“Because we haven’t had nutritious food, breastfeeding has been difficult,” Harimaya, one of the nursing mothers, said.

The roads to the village are yet to be mended, making it difficult to bring in relief material from the district headquarters of Beni.

“Whatever material we have received via helicopters, we have distributed equally among all,” Rajaram Subedi, ward chair of Marang-6, told the Post. “We will share whatever we have. We’ve evaluated the total loss caused by the landslides and have submitted it to concerned authorities.”

Thhamsara Pun, chair of Dhaulagiri Rural Municipality, said that essentials for new mothers and their infants such as nutritious food, warm clothes and pads have reached the basin of Ramche Village, but it hasn’t been taken up to the settlements.

For the survivors, getting down to the basin to take the essentials is difficult, if not impossible. The roads are badly damaged and there are no alternative routes to reach there. If the roads were not damaged, it would take over two hours to reach the basin from the Ramche Village.

“We are concerned about the health of nursing mothers, that’s why we have placed them at buildings while everyone else is staying at makeshift tents,” she said. “And in distributing relief material, we have prioritised pregnant women, nursing mothers and differently abled.”

While the authorities have paid heed to waste management and controlling infectious diseases, nutritious food for nursing mothers has to be managed locally at the moment, said Ek Narayan Lamsal, chief of the District Health Office, Beni.

“To control the contingent spread of infectious diseases, we have deployed one health worker for each shelter,” Lamsal said. “For nursing mothers, nutritious food is essential but with the roads blocked, they need to make do with locally available foods such as beans and greens.”

The rain-triggered landslides this year have killed 31 and displaced over 600 households in the district. A dozen people are injured whereas five are still missing. The displaced families have been relocated temporarily in and around schools and other public buildings. According to data from the Nepal Red Cross Society, Myagdi branch, a total of 298 households have been displaced in Dhaulagiri Rural Municipality, 165 in Malika, 34 in Mangala, 37 in Beni Municipality, 40 in Raghuganga and 52 in Annapurna Rural Municipality this monsoon.