Last month proved to be the deadliest month on record for Nepalese expats in Qatar, with 32 deaths in all. Most of the deceased were construction workers in their 20s who died of cardiovascular disease, a Nepalese embassy official told Doha News.
When asked what could prompt the men to develop heart problems at such an early age, Second Secretary Harihar Kant Poudel cited working conditions as the main issue:
“Many workers are going without meals, and without enough water, then they are working in high temperatures all day. The weather here is different from our country. Our nationals are not used to it.”
Poudel confirmed a report in the Peninsula that 13 Nepalese laborers died in July from different cardiovascular disorders. Some 11 more perished in road traffic accidents and eight further deaths were attributed to falls and other on-site accidents.
He added, however, that some deaths are ruled to be caused by heart problems to cover up on-site accidents.
There have been cases where we have suspected that there has been a mutual understanding between the doctor and the company, and the doctor has made a false report saying that they died of cardiac arrest – it is easier for a company to say they died of that.”
Though companies are not allowed to make outdoor employees work between 11am and 3pm during the searing summer months, laborers in Qatar still remain at high risk of heat stroke, which can be fatal if not treated quickly.
Qatar is becoming increasingly reliant on blue-collar Nepalese expats. A recent study on the lives of migrant workers found that 39 percent of all low-income workers in Qatar are Nepalese.
Meanwhile, Qatar and the rest of the GCC are becoming a less popular option for Indian expats. The number of workers from southern India moving to the region has declined by more than 75 percent since 2008, according to Arabian Business.
Better salaries and conditions back home in India are among the reasons thought to be behind the change.
Credit: Photo by Penny Yi Wang