Children and families are at risk as a shortage of safe drinking water grips Nepal. Half the country now faces drinking water shortages, the Federation of Drinking Water and Sanitation Users Nepal, warned yesterday. More than 20 areas of Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, have been badly affected, say experts, in spite of the nation entering its monsoon season. “This situation could affect a large number of families who have already been reeling under the immense water shortage situation over the last many years,” Ajaya Dixit, director of the Nepal Water Conservation Foundation told the United Nations news service, IRIN.
The country, sandwiched between India and China is just getting back on its feet after 10 years of fighting between Maoist, Monarchist forces and political parties, which killed more than 13,000 people and broke the country’s infrastructure. Although that most people have access to water, many living in hill areas have to travel vast distances to find it. Wells are often highly polluted. More than 4.4 million people in the Himalayan nation do not have regular access to safe drinking water in rural and urban areas, whether that’s piped water, water from wells, rainwater or bottled water, according to government statistics. “With water sources drying up, erratic rainfall and poor management of water resources, the problems are worsening every year,” said Prakash Amatya from the Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation.
Health fears are rising because of this. Already, more than 10,500 children die from diarrhoea before they reach their fifth birthday, mostly because they haven’t got good enough access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, according to WaterAid. And more than half of the population do not have access to sanitation, which spreads disease through unhygienic living conditions, the organisation adds. People living in cut off areas, such as Dadeldhura, Doti, Surkhet and dozens of others in western Nepal, all more than 500km from the capital, Kathmandu, are already suffering, social workers say. “A lot of people are taking desperate measures by spending more than five hours every day to fetch water from far-off rivers,” said Anju Karki, a healthcare volunteer in Doti.
Most of Nepal’s population rely on farming, and the UN estimates that about 40 per cent of Nepalis live in poverty. Foreign aid is vital to the economy, and Nepal also relies a lot on trade with neighbouring India.