For Nepali migrant workers, Malaysia has nearly everything to make them feel at home. The climate in the Southeast Asian country is far pleasanter than the searing heat of the Gulf. Malaysians, whether native Malay or minority groups of Chinese and Indian origin, have familiar facial features, food habits and cultures. Like in Nepal, rice and curry are widely popular across Malaysia.
Yet, why are Nepalis dying at a far higher rate in Malaysia than in the Gulf countries? This question has troubled Nepali stakeholders for long. Fresh efforts now by the Ministry of Labour and Employment might take us closer to some answers.
A delegation of Nepali officials including medical doctors is currently in Kuala Lampur, the Malaysian capital, to study the deaths of Nepalis in Malaysia, the largest work destination country for Nepal’s migrant workforce. The delegation, which comprises Dr Kedar Baral, registrar of Patan Academy of Health Sciences, Dr Raamesh Koirala, Sanad KC and Raju Pokharel of the Ministry of Health and Arjun Khanal of Ministry of Labour and Employment, is expected to come up with suggestions to bring the death rate down.
The rate at which Nepalis have been dying in Malaysia is shocking. Since 2003, at least 3,800 physically and mentally fit Nepalis have lost their lives while working in that country, according to data obtained by Republica from Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and further verified with the embassy in Kuala Lampur.
The rate is far higher than recorded in any other of the 110 countries identified as work destinations by the Nepal government, and almost double that in Qatar.
An analysis of postmortem reports issued by Malaysian hospitals attributes most of the deaths to sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack. Sudden cardiac arrest, a medical condition wherein the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, is mostly blamed for deaths that occur during sleep, according to officials at the Nepali mission.
The rest of the deaths have been attributed to other causes including workplace accident, road accident, suicide, physical assaults and chronic disease like tuberculosis, kidney failure and pneumonia.
Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they hope the field study will find previously unknown facts related to migrant deaths. One main objective of the study, they said, is to develop plans, policies and programs to reduce the number of deaths.