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NGOs allege employers obscure true numbers of heat stress fatalities among Nepali migrants to the Gulf & Malaysia

A study published in the journal Cardiology suggests that the numbers of Nepali migrant workers dying from heat stress abroad is far higher than official records. While fatalities of migrants in destination countries such as Qatar and Malaysia are attributed to cardiovascular disease and recorded as "natural deaths", the study draws a strong correlation between higher temperatures and mortality rates.

Workplaces in the assessed countries are falling far below the minimum health and safety conditions, with workers outside all day without being briefed on the dangers of dehydration. Many return home having developed kidney pains and in need of treatment or transplants, or in coffins.

In response, human rights activists claim that doctors in destinations countries "are aware of the actual causes of the majority of these fatalities, but are often bribed by employers to pass them off as ‘natural deaths’". They highlight how higher temperatures caused by climate change have increased the incidence of heat stress among Nepali workers, and recommend pre-departure trainings for migrants address the risks associated with working conditions in destination countries.

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Item
2 August 2019

Heat Stress Impacts on Cardiac Mortality in Nepali Migrant Workers in Qatar

Author: Cardiology Journal: B. Pradhan, T. Kjellstrom, D. Atar, P. Sharma, B. Kayastha, G. Bhandari, P. Pradhan

120,000+ NMWs [Nepali migrant workers] are exposed to various occupational hazards, including excessive heat, and 3–4 workers die each week... the majority of NMWs were found working in high WBGT [wet bulb global temperature] (>31°C) each working day during hot months. The major cause of these deaths was recorded as cardiovascular problems (cardiovascular disease; CVD)... There was a strong correlation between average monthly afternoon heat levels (WBGT) and CVD mortality. It is likely that a large proportion of these CVD deaths during hot months were due to serious heat stroke... As many as 200 of the 571 CVD deaths during 2009–2017 could have been prevented if effective heat protection had been implemented as a part of local occupational health and safety programs... death records for workers dying in hot conditions should be more precise than “cardiac arrest.”

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Article
2 August 2019

The heat is killing us

Author: Sonia Awale, Nepali Times

An increasing number of Nepali workers in the Persian Gulf and Malaysia are dying of heat stress... A recent study published in the journal Cardiology presents a strong correlation between average monthly afternoon heat levels and mortality among Nepali workers in Qatar. Of the total fatalities due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) among Nepalis, 58% occurred during the summer months and 22% in winter, mostly caused by heat stress. This is much higher than the global average of 15% of total deaths in the 25-35 age group being due to CVD... Many Nepali migrant workers in the Gulf are exposed to similar conditions since they work in construction... Many of them are not properly briefed about the dangers of dehydration... Activists claim that doctors... are aware of the actual causes of the majority of these fatalities, but are often bribed by employers to pass them off as ‘natural deaths’.

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