Nepal is currently dealing with a dengue epidemic that is said to be the worst in the country’s history. The mosquito-borne condition affects people of all ages and is on the rise across Asia and South America. With over 8,000 people hospitalised in Nepal in the past few months, the condition has placed our staff and the children we support in danger, making it vitally important that we raise awareness of the condition and how it occurs.
Those affected tend to experience severe flu like symptoms such as high fever, joint pain and headaches. In severe cases, the condition can become fatal. Dengue is becoming increasingly common, and experts have attributed environmental conditions such as climate change and urbanisation as having contributed to creating the conditions for the outbreak; with hot and wet weather creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Kathmandu and Pokhara, where Kidasha operates, have experienced rapid urbanisation in recent years, and we are working to mitigate any detrimental impact this could have on the most vulnerable in the region.
So as the country attempts to grapple with the issue, our work in Nepal must continue. We have seen first-hand how poor health can have a knock-on effect; creating further challenges for vulnerable people and their families. For example, ill health can often result in adults becoming unable to work and their children unable to go to school, further perpetuating the conditions for poverty and child exploitation. The dengue outbreak demonstrates how the factors creating the conditions for poverty are multi-faceted and complex, which is why the response must be too.
At Kidasha, we pioneer a tailored approach to relieve the causes of poverty. This includes helping families and individuals gain access to government and health services, and continuing to support them until they are able to live safely and independently. We also work with employers to improve living and working conditions and protect vulnerable young people from abuse and exploitation. In addressing the factors that coincide with health conditions like dengue, we can mitigate the likelihood of vulnerable children falling into further danger.
Dengue has placed an added strain on our work in Pokhara. A number of children from our shelter have fallen ill with the fever, with some hospitalised. As basic nursing isn’t available and patients are reliant on family and carers to look after them, our care staff are accompanying each child in hospital as they recover. Instances like these emphasise the need for our resilient support, as well as remind us of the risks taken to ensure help is reaching the most vulnerable in Nepal.
With most of our staff based in Pokhara, we have an advantage in being able to provide targeted, tailored support, as well as quickly respond to arising needs. There is currently no prescribed medicine to cure dengue, but we are reassured to see the growing international focus on the issue, as well as more discussions on the response needed. When faced with entrenched problems like climate change, child labour and urban poverty it’s easy to feel overwhelmed but knowing that people are paying attention is deeply motivating.