Hospitals have started to cut services in Nepal because of political protests that have blocked key supply routes for life-saving medicines, doctors have warned.
Surgeries are being rescheduled by weeks and patients are finding it difficult to get to medical facilities due to fuel shortages, said Dr Mukti Ram Shrestha of the Nepal Medical Association.
He added: “If the situation of shortages continues, patients could start dying after two weeks.” Truckloads of medicine have been blocked at the main border crossing with India for the last few months by Nepal’s Madhesi ethnic protesters, he said.
He added that Indian authorities were also not allowing the shipments across even at points where there are no protests. The traditionally marginalised Madhesis have been protesting against Nepal’s new constitution, demanding to be given greater autonomy over local matters.
Talks between the protesters and the government of Narendra Modi have made little progress. India, which has close cultural ties with the group, has restricted fuel and other goods to Nepal.
Nepal imports 60 per cent of its medicine from India. The remaining locally made drugs also get most of the raw material and packaging from India.
Most of the fuel comes from India, and the restriction has led to severe shortages in Nepal. Fuel rationing has led to buses and trucks cutting down services. People travel on rooftops and taxis charge four times the normal rate.
Besides the emergency medicines, patients with long-term illnesses including high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney and heart diseases, were also having difficulty finding medicine.