by 'Gambhir Bahadur
Delivering a speech in Parliament on Thursday, his first after becoming the country's executive head for a second time, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamsal Dahal made a promise to the indigenous Tharu community.
Dahal said the government will investigate Sickle Cell -- a genetic disorder that is prevalent only among the Tharus in Nepal. He said DNAs of 20,000 Tharus will be examined to find correlations between there gene and Sickle Cell epidemic. He also promised to provide counseling for those Tharus diagnosed with Sickle Cell disease by giving them Identity Cards. He further promised to examine DNAs of all Tharus within the next two years.
Dahal's promise rings hollow. However, he deserves an applause for promising something that was overlooked by all the past Prime Ministers.
More than 250 Tharus, mostly poor farmers toiling in the western and farwestern Tarai, have already been diagnosed with Sickle Cell, which has not affilicted any other ethnic communities in Nepal.
More than 250 Tharus, mostly poor farmers toiling in the western and farwestern Tarai, have already been diagnosed with Sickle Cell, which has not affilicted any other ethnic communities in Nepal. And it is likely that a signification portion of the Tharu population is suffering from this disease. The reason only less than 300 Tharus have been diagnosed with Sickle Cell because most of them have no access to medical services.
Sickle Cell is a genetic disorder inherited from both the mother and father. It is called Sickle Cell because regular round red blood cells in patients suffering from this disease are replaced with sickle-shaped red blood cells which get stuck in the veins, deplete oxygen flow and cause severe body pain in patients. In 2008, the UN declared sickle cell disease a global public health problem and dedicated 19 June to be World Sickle Cell Day.
However, in Nepal, the government has never given priority to research on Sickle Cell, and awareness and medical services about it. The Tharus, neglected by the state, have been force to bear the brunt of the state apathy.
Prime Minister Dahal has promised to identify the root causes of Sickle Cell, he should be praised. But it is yet to see whether he actuall means it, or whether he will be able to deliver on his promise.
When the Tharus irrigated the western Tarai with their blood and sweat, the region was nothing but a large swathe of vast forest. They were able to live there because they were immune to Malaria. While other peoples could not survive Malaria epidemic, the Tharus developed resistance agasint Malaria. Probably because of this same reason, the Tharus are now suffering from Sickle Cell, which is curable but they cannot afford treatment.
The government never cared about saving the Tharus from Sickle Cell. Now that Prime Minister Dahal has promised to identify the root causes of Sickle Cell, he should be praised. But it is yet to see whether he actuall means it, or whether he will be able to deliver on his promise. He is in Singha Durbar only for a brief period. Next governments should not ignore this initiative. We need to save the Tharus from the Sickle Cell epidemic.