Fuel blockade in Nepal has earthquake-level health effects

September 19, 2016

After a devastating earthquake in April 2015, Nepal is set back by another disaster, a fuel blockade imposed by India for political leverage

A blockade imposed by India in fall 2015, in response to provisions of Nepal’s new constitution, led to a severe fuel crisis, which has caused devastating health consequences for the population of Nepal. BP Koirala Institute of Health Science Assistant Professor Shyam Sundar Budhathoki and CDDEP Associate Director for Policy Hellen Gelband comment on the blockade in BMJ Global Health.

The national financial loss due to the blockade is estimated at US$5 billion, which is not far under the US$7 billion in losses incurred by the April 2015 earthquake. The earthquake claimed 9,000 lives and displaced 3.5 million people. Importantly, in severely affected districts, 90 percent of health facilities were destroyed or seriously damaged. The reasons for blockade were never fully explained.

Because of the severe lack of fuel, ambulance services were grounded and other health services were hindered because hospitals lacked medical supplies and reconstruction in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake was delayed due to lack of supplies. All aspects of public health worsened, as overcrowding of limited public transport led to accidents and deaths and lack of cooking fuel meant people used wood fires, adding to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

According to Hellen Gelband, “Blockades of this sort threaten to disrupt gains in maternal and child health and promote outbreaks of new or re-emerging diseases, as well as hinder progress made toward achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals. The global health community should pay as much attention to manmade disasters like the blockade as they do earthquakes.”

The comment in BMJ Global Health  can be accessed here: http://gh.bmj.com/content/1/2/e000116

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About the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy 
The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) produces independent, multidisciplinary research to advance the health and wellbeing of human populations around the world.  CDDEP projects are global in scope, spanning Africa, Asia, and North America and include scientific studies and policy engagement.  The CDDEP team is experienced in addressing country-specific and regional issues, as well as the local and global aspects of global challenges, such as antibiotic resistance and pandemic influenza. CDDEP research is notable for innovative approaches to design and analysis, which are shared widely through publications, presentations and web-based programs.  CDDEP has offices in Washington, D.C. and New Delhi and relies on a distinguished team of scientists, public health experts and economists.

Commentary authors: Shyam Sundar Budhathoki, Hellen Gelband

Date: 

19 Sep 2016