Sudden fall in temperature is one of the extreme weather phenomena which adversely affects the health and general life of the people, especially the poor and vulnerable. If the fall in temperature is unusually large and rapid in short period of time (for example in 24 hours) the phenomenon is called cold wave. In Nepal, such weather extremities are being more frequent in recent decades, thanks to the impact of global temperature rise and climate change. Since last few decades Nepal has experienced climate extremities such as cold wave, heat wave, excessive precipitation, prolonged dryness, etc. affecting livelihood of the people even causing death of many. Among these weather extremities, the impact of cold wave is higher in health and livelihood of the people.
Recently, most parts of the Terai region, especially the west and far west, has seen a sharp fall in temperature caused by thick fog and mist thereby making the general life of the people difficult. People have been unable to perform their daily activities due to extreme cold. Movements of people and vehicles in the streets have sharply reduced. At the same time hospitals of the region have experienced increased number of patients. News reports from Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj and other parts of the Terai belt have shown that number of patients visiting hospitals for cold-related problems have increased lately. Cases of illnesses caused by cold like common cold, pneumonia, fever, and typhoid are being reported in many hospitals of the region. According to medical officers, symptoms like cough, fever and pneumonia, among others, are common in people suffering from cold these days. They have suggested for taking special care for all especially the children and elders to protect them from cold as the risk of pneumonia in children and cough and cold in elders is high during the winter season.
The impacts of extreme cold are higher in the poor section of people who do not have access to warm clothes, nutritious food, good house and heating arrangements. As this low income group of the people are forced to work outdoors even during the situation of cold weather to earn a living, they are at high risk of being affected from the cold-related health problems. Doctors have suggested that living at home, wearing warm clothes, heating homes, and having warm fluids and nutritious food help to protect one from the extreme cold. Therefore, it is important to make sure everybody has access to resource for keeping warm during the cold spell.
As per the principle of the welfare state, it is the responsibility of the government to protect the life of the people at risk of cold-related ailments. The government should, therefore, provide warm clothes, food and other supplies for the safety of the poor people. At the same time, the government should create awareness for the safe use of fire, heaters and other heating equipment as it can also pose risk to life through suffocations. For this, the local government, which is at the doorsteps of the people, can play a vital role to assist those who are in need. Besides, the central and the federal governments should also provide financial and logistical supports for the people living in poverty. In addition to this, various non-governmental organisations and charity funds should also be mobilised to help people stay safe from the health threats of cold.