Incident Reports

Cold takes heavy toll on slum dwellers


Province 3, Kathmandu, Kathmandu

Five-month-old Rohan in the Bagmati slum settlement has yet to fully recover from the common cold and fever. His siblings Roshni, 8, and Rohit, 7, are still down with fever. Geeta Shah, a mother of three, complained that all her family members have been severely affected by cold related ailments. “I have just returned from the hospital as my younger son Rohan was suffering from pneumonia,” said Shah. She informed that her younger son Rohan had to be admitted to Kanti Children Hospital for two months as he was in critical condition. Two of her other children also remain ill most of the time. Doctors at the hospital have asked her to keep her children warm. But that´s easier said than done for one living in a makeshift home in the squatter settlement. Despite covering their body with quilt and make them wear warm clothes, it is still hard to keep them warm. “We frequently wake up in the middle of the night to make sure that the children are warm," added she. The cold has not spared Shah either. “I am also suffering from tonsillitis, while my husband has fever," she said. Shah is one among the hundreds of families in the squatters´ settlement to get seriously affected by cold related ailments. According to the District Public Health Office (DPHO), Kathmandu, there are 73 listed slum settlements in the district, in which over 800,000 people reside. "Infants, newborn and the elderly have been severely affected by the cold. Most of the small children have been suffering from pneumonia, common cold, cough and tonsillitis, "said KamalaTamang, another slum dweller. She complained that squatters have been deprived of basic health care services, electricity and drinking water, among other things. The Kathmandu DPHO says ensuring health care service to slum dwellers in the district has become a major challenge to the office. "Slum settlements have become a major headache to us," said Srikrishna Bhatta, chief of Kathmandu DPHO. “According to the government all squatter settlements are illegal.” Due to this people residing in those settlements have been deprived of basic health care facilities. Moreover, they are also deprived of basic necessities like drinking water and electricity. Bhatta said the office does not know about the health status of the people residing there.