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Nepal: Monitoring the healthcare system

28-03-2002 News Release 02/13

For the second time in four months, the ICRC has delivered a surgical kit for treating up to 100 war-wounded to the Bheri Zonal Hospital in Nepalgunj, some 600 km west of Kathmandu. The kit weighs half a tonne, and contains instruments, antibiotics, fluids and dressing material. It will enable the hospital to stabilize casualties until they can be evacuated to Kathmandu for further treatment. The Bheri hospital was chosen to receive these supplies because of its capacity to treat war wounded. Its location in mid-western Nepal, where several clashes have recently taken place, allows casualties to be taken there by road or air, even from remote areas.

Fighting between Maoist insurgents and Nepalese security forces broke out last November following the collapse of a four-month ceasefire. More than 1,800  people have died and several hundred  have been wounded, according to local sources. The heaviest fighting took place in the Sulukhumbu region east of Kathmandu, at the start of the Himalayan Trail, and in Achham district in western Nepal, where 140 security personnel were killed. There have also been sporadic clashes in other parts of the country.

The ICRC has been working in Nepal since 1998 and had already carried out a survey of 64 medical facilities throughout the country in preparation for such an escalation. " Since the latest string of attacks, the medical team has been keeping a close watch on how medical structures are adapting to the changing situation " , stated Jean-Jacques Bovay, head of the ICRC in Kathmandu. " The aim of monitoring the medical structures is to keep track of whether people can obtain medical care, which is one of our top priorities.”

In August 1998, acting on the basis of its right of humanitarian initiative, the ICRC requested permission from the Nepalese government to carry out protection work in connection with the security situation. To date, its main activities in Nepal have been to visit people detained in connection with the conflict and to monitor the capacity of the healthcare system to adapt to changes in the situation. The ICRC has also been teaching combatants and civilians about humanitarian law, and has recently embarked on a countrywide campaign to raise awareness of how international humanitarian law applies in the Nepalese context.