Still, Nepal’s lack of preparedness to fight public health emergencies has been similar to the apathy shown about enforcing building codes and having a rescue and relief strategy in place for future mega-earthquakes.
It took the devastating 2015 earthquake to finally push the policymakers to develop the Disaster Risk and Management Act in 2017 – more than five years after it was languishing in the legislature. Unlike the Natural Calamity Act 1982 that is centred on the relief, the new Act listed 22 kinds of disasters in Nepal and it focuses on preparedness. Epidemics however have been categorised under ‘non-disaster’ in the new Act.
Rebuilding five years after 2015 quake, Alisha Sijapati
Epidemics has been lumped together with famine, fire, pest or micro-bacterial attack, industrial accident, toxic gas hazard, chemical radiation leakage, gas explosion, toxic food intake, environmental pollution, deforestation, physical infrastructure damage and accidents during disaster relief.
“Placing snakebites and outbreaks together itself shows that we haven’t really understood what an epidemic means. There is a huge difference in how we have to deal with them,” says Baburam Marasini, former head of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division.
The emergence of COVID-19 on top of the reoccurrence of pre-existing diseases mean countries need health institutions with medical staff equipped to deal with epidemics, research wing to undertake new studies on emerging diseases, and a strong system that can take immediate steps to control spread of a contagion.
The climate connection to Covid-19, Rastraraj Bhandari