After devastating floods in Nepal, MSF continues assistance
10 September 2008
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is providing critical healthcare to around 27,000 displaced people following devastating floods in Nepal. The crisis began on August 18 when heavy monsoon rains caused the Saptakoshi River to break through a retaining wall, flooding the Sunsari District in the southeast of the country. The deluge has caused catastrophic damage to lives, livelihoods and infrastructure in an already fragile area. Around 54,000 people from the Kusaha, Haripur, Shreepur, Loukahi and Bhokraha Village Development Committees (VDCs) have been displaced. People are now struggling to survive in makeshift camps, where unsanitary conditions, a scarcity of drinking water and a lack of hygiene, are causing disease to escalate. Diarrhoea, in particular, is putting people's lives at risk, along with other illnesses such as pneumonia, chest infections and vector borne diseases. In response, MSF has set up a clinic on the western side of the floodwaters, in Saptari district, focussed on assisting children under-5 years and treating emergency cases, including diarrhoea. The teams are also running mobile clinics, setting up points from which to treat severely dehydrated patients with oral rehydration salts, instigating efforts to improve the availability of clean water and sanitation, and collecting data. The overall emergency response in the Saptari District has been slowed down by the inaccessible nature of the region, in contrast to the easier to reach eastern side of the affected area. The east-west highway, the lifeline of the country, is currently impassable and those escaping the floods have set up camp along its embankment wall, on dry areas of the road and in the neighbouring VDCs. The temporary settlements along the western side of the highway are only accessible from Saptari district. However, the closest airstrip is more than three to four hours drive away and there is no regional capital close by. The situation for those affected by the floods currently remains uncertain, with many people still moving around in search of refuge, including people crossing the border from India to escape the floods in Bihar. As such, the MSF team continues to monitor the circumstances in order that we can respond to people's needs as necessary; MSF is currently preparing for a potential outbreak of cholera and arrangements are underway for a cholera treatment camp.