Responding to Nepal’s Second COVID CrisisPublished: May 27, 2021 Reading time: 6 minutes
Nepal is suffering a deadly second wave of COVID-19, with half a million cases recorded. From just 150 cases a day a month ago, the country is now recording more than 8,000 cases every 24 hours. On April 26, Nepal’s government announced a lockdown of the capital, Kathmandu, to help slow the spread of the virus. On May 1, following a recommendation from the COVID Crisis Management Coordination Committee (CCMC), the Nepalese government decided to close 22 border crossings with India due to a high increase in the disease, leaving only 13 points of entry open. Lockdown measures have also been applied across the country, with movement currently restricted between provinces.
Aid for remote health posts treating COVID-19 patients
In the context of this growing health crisis, People in Need (PIN) delivered aid to four health posts who are providing isolation services in the remote regions of Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha. The aid consisted of critical materials required for daily functioning of isolation centres, such as oximeters, masks, hand sanitisers, soaps, personal protective equipment (PPE), face shield, gloves, disinfectant and spray bottles. Additionally, we also procured hygiene materials consisting of masks and soaps to be distributed to 775 vulnerable households to limit the spread of COVID-19 within the communities.
The immediate emergency response of 10,000 euros worth of aid was possible thanks to money raised by a public appeal in the Czech Republic. Thanks to this generosity, the aid was quickly delivered to Barhabise, Bhotekoshi Rural/Municipality of Sindhupalchowk on 21 May, and Tamakoshi and Bigu Rural Municipality of Dolakha district the following day.
This aid is coming at a critical time. In Nepal, COVID-19’s second wave is spreading faster than the first, and many areas are unprepared. Bhupendra lal Shrestha, Health Coordinator of Bhotekoshi Rural Municipality, said PIN’s support has been essential for stocking local health posts that's providing isolation facilities. “We were out of gloves and thankfully, your package had them. The package had everything that we require on daily basis to run the isolation centre. In some of the places, there is water scarcity and in others there isn’t adequate soap. That's when the sanitiser plays an important role.”
In Barhabise, the health post is currently accommodating 10 COVID-19 patients. Public Health Inspector Raj Kumar Poudyal said that they had set up isolation centre with 25 beds but because of lack of supplies, there are few patients. "We recently bought four oxygen concentrators and we need more so we are seeking support on that. We have around 30-35 oxygen cylinders, but that isn’t enough. We have to travel almost 75 kilometres to refill it and the procedure is difficult. Therefore, we are keeping the cylinders as a backup and using the concentrators as much as possible.”
Poudyal adds: "The PPE sets in the aid package will be very helpful. We require six PPE sets each day. So, when we have some in stock, we can use the clean one next day and give us a break to sanitise the used one."
Support for distance learning
In addition to direct COVID-19 aid, PIN is also helping in other ways during the crisis. For instance, we’ve supported more than 2,000 married and out-of-school adolescent girls as part of our inclusive and remote education programme. Prior to the lockdown, our Distance Teaching Learning (DTL) programme distributed educational materials to girls to support their continuous learning.
Additionally, PIN is actively coordinating with stakeholders in areas such as education, protection, and sexual and reproductive health at that federal, provincial, and districts level, to ensure people in remote areas have access to services and information about staying safe during the pandemic.
Additional aid in the pipeline
On 17 May, PIN launched a public appeal for aid from members of the PIN Club of Friends and the general public to support Nepal even more. So far, people in the Czech Republic have committed more than $250,000 USD toward the effort.
“We want to continue supporting isolation centres, health posts, and local authorities fighting COVID-19 in the most remote areas,” says PIN Nepal Country Director Věra Exnerová. “We are constantly reassessing the situation on the ground and adjust our response to the actual needs. Thankfully, through our existing education programmes, we have direct access to adolescent girls and their families, which is crucial in identifying the needs of the most vulnerable at this moment.”
PIN will also assist Nepal’s government by supporting efforts to track the disease’s march across the country. This will be done by upgrading the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority’s (NDRRMA) COVID-19 information portal.
“This portal collects data on isolation centres, COVID-19 cases, and other important information that allows for more efficient crisis management,” says Exnerova. “Information management and understanding people’s needs are essential to better target responses.”
Building on PIN’s previous efforts
In Nepal, PIN’s current efforts are building on work started during the first COVID-19 wave. Last year, the Pratibaddha project installed 40 foot-operated handwashing stations in four municipalities, and provided hygiene kits to four hospitals and health centres. PIN also conducted COVID-19 awareness campaigns for 713 vulnerable households (including for the elderly, women, people living with disabilities, and members of marginalised ethnic groups). We also distributed leaflets, masks, and hand soaps to remote villages in the Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk districts.
Similarly, in the Terai, we aired COVID-19 preventive measures, awareness messages on child marriage, and sexual and reproductive health messages through local radio stations in local languages. We developed the DTL approach and reached out to 1,200 girls continuing their schooling at home due to lockdowns. Additionally, we provided distance training on gender equality and social inclusion, as well as alternate education approaches, for seven schools in the Bara and Rautahat districts.
Finally, we provided continual information about COVID-19 preventive measures, local services, and psychosocial counseling through mobile phones. By keeping in touch with girls and families, we have been able to identify those most in need of immediate support. We also coordinated with ADRA Nepal to help set up mobile health camps, and distributed mosquito nets, surgical masks, sanitiser, sprayers, sodium hydrochloride, and gloves to four rural regions in Bara and Rautahat.
"Last year’s monsoon trigged numerous landslides, which resulted in the displacement of thousands of households. The increasing trend of COVID -19 and movement restriction affected this community of people greatly,” says PIN Nepal Emergency Coordinator Jampa Tsering Lama. “Based on our past experiences and knowing the needs of the rural community, we have designed appropriate COVID-19 safety kits, which will help the community withstand and minimise the spread of the latest chapter in this pandemic."
For more information, contact:
Vera Exnerova, PIN Nepal Country Director, +420 777 787 931, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jampa Tsering Lama, PIN Nepal DRR and Emergency Coordinator, +9779851174237, Jampa.email@example.com