Nearly two months after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shattered Nepal, the small Himalayan country is still counting the losses from its worst natural disaster in recent history.
The latest estimate is that of the damage sustained by Nepal’s creaky healthcare system. Almost a third of the country’s public health facilities have been damaged or destroyed in the aftermath of the quake, a new report (pdf) presented to Nepal’s planning commission has reckoned.
In all, the earthquake destroyed 446 public health facilities—including hospitals, primary health care centres (PHCC) and health posts (HP)— and 16 private establishments. In addition, 701 public health facilities are partially damaged, along with 64 private health establishments. The country had a total of 4,468 public and private health care facilities.
The total value of damages and losses to the healthcare system is estimated at 5.96 billion Nepalese rupees ($58 million), and rebuilding will likely cost 11.27 billion Nepalese rupees ($110 million) over the next five years, according to the report.
But these rebuilding efforts are likely to be complicated by the monsoon season, with the risk of landslides threatening the health facilities that remain—particularly those in Nepal’s remote mountainous regions.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and its public healthcare infrastructure was already gravely limited before the earthquake. The country had just 2.1 physicians per 10,000 of the population, according to a report by the World Health Organization, or WHO (pdf).
This is partly the result of the significant ‘brain drain’ problem that Nepal struggles with, as many of its doctors and healthcare workers migrate to more developed countries in search of better pay and working conditions
The earthquake killed 18 health workers and volunteers and injured 74, according to the latest report, compounding the difficulty of providing the required health services in its immediate aftermath.
“Health services must be rebuilt and made accessible to all, while risk-reduction programmes must be implemented at the sub-national level,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the WHO regional director for Southeast Asia, wrote last week. “Soil testing, the enforcement of health facility-related building codes, and investment in design of quake-proof facilities and homes must be encouraged across the country.”