The world is suffering from COVID-19, so is Nepal; with at least 10 deaths and more than 2600 COVID-19 infected cases. The graph is increasing day to day with an average 200 plus COVID-19 positive cases daily. Following the increase in the number of cases, the Government of Nepal (GoN) is preparing to announce a health emergency in Nepal.
As the lockdown enters in the 10th week, daily wage labours and migrant workers’ families are the hard-hit; leaving them jobless and hungry. According to the latest United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) report, three in every five employees of both formal and informal micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Nepal have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
Non-government agencies like DCA is adding support in the efforts that local government are doing to better manage this crisis, by supporting food, Water Sanitation and Hygiene materials, health accessories and launching awareness programmes through several channels including radio, TV, printing materials and social media to aware the people about the level of the risk of COVID-19 pandemic, psychosocial counseling, and help them better deal with the crisis.
Altogether DCA has supported approximately 21 million Nepalis rupees worth support for COVID-19 response reaching directly to approximately 25000 individuals with food packages and hygiene kit support, 29 public health centers and 33 quarantines.
On a sunny day in the premise of Shaileswari Secondary School in Beldandi Rural Municipality, Kanchanpur District, a mother of one-month-old baby, Krishna Rana, 25, is waiting for her turn to receive the food package. Her husband has accompanied her to this Food Distribution Site.
“Forget about nutritious food, it has been hard to manage daily food for us,” she shares.
“I have been breastfeeding my child, however, it is not enough, as I lack nutritious food that helps in producing milk.”
Her husband Rajendra is a construction worker. It’s been weeks since he earned anything.
“There’s no work I can do,” Rajendra says. “It’s been tough to feed nine members in the family and I am the sole breadwinner.”
Krishna shares her happiness after receiving the food package including nutritious food. “I can now at least have food for a month,” she says.
In addition to the food support as per the local government relief support guidelines (rice, dal, salt, cooking oil, tealeaf, sugar); nutritious foods like eggs, ghee, suji, almonds and other dry fruits were also supported to the pregnant and lactating mothers. Altogether 105 pregnant and lactating mothers received nutritious food in addition to the food packages in this municipality.
The Local Government (LG) are using all its resources to tackle the crisis, but the days ahead are more challenging says, Dhan Bahadur Thapa, Chairman of Beldandi Rural Municipality. “We lack proper resources, and the support from the non-government agencies have been very essential; through the help of them we are trying our best to feed our people.”
“Through our discussions, we came to know that during the lockdown, the pregnant and lactating mothers were not being able to have nutritious food, as those we supported are the families of daily wage labours and migrant workers,” says Ashok Bikram Jairu, Executive Director, NNSWA, DCA’s partner in Kanchanpur District. “Our support is not just to kill their hunger but also help them become healthy with nutritious food.”
For 49-years-old Janaki Devi Thapa of Achham district, the crisis has made her life more difficult as the lockdown hasn’t allowed her to earn anything.
“I was managing food asking here and there as I ran out of food. I do not have regular jobs; I rely on the small farm that I have. But since the lockdown I haven’t been able to grow and sell anything,” a mother of ‘two school-going children’ shares. She lost her husband a decade ago. “I don’t know what will happen next, but at least now I have food for a month,” she says.
Pushpa Pun Magar of Gauriganga Municipality, Kailali district said that the food will at least help them to survive for a month after receiving a food package and hygiene kit through local partner FAYA Nepal. “The lockdown has affected my daily income as I used to work in others’ fields and help feed my two children,” she says. “It’s been already five months since my husband stopped sending any money.”
Her husband works in India. Her younger child was going to a local English school and was in class 1; but as she couldn’t pay his school fees; has put him out of school.
A total of 4,132 families received food packages for one month including nutritious food for pregnant and lactating mothers in Kailali, Doti, Achham, Dailekh, Banke, Bardiya Dhading and Gorkha districts.
Along with the food packages 2,086 households also received hygiene/dignity kit. The hygiene kit includes sanitary pads, bucket, jug, hand sanitisers, and soaps among others.
“In addition to food, Hygiene is extremely important to prevent the spread and control the outbreak of Covid19. Obviously, hand washing is the first line of defense to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus which DCA has prioritized in response to Covid19,” says Dinesh Gurung, Programme Manager at DCA.
Quarantine Centers Awaiting Revamp
The risk is increasing as more people are returning home. In the past two weeks, Kanchanpur district welcomed more than 15,000 migrant returnees alone. For the midwestern and far western Nepal neighbouring country India is one of the biggest job market. However, as the crisis looms, they are losing their jobs and are heading back home by any means they can.
Forty years old Lok Bahadur Saud returned home last week from Gujrat, India after he didn’t earn anything for four months. “I was working in a hotel, but as the lockdown started I lost my job,” he shares. He is staying now in one of the quarantines in Beldandi Rural Municipality. “The quarantine centers lack basic facilities like enough safe drinking water,” he says.
According to Beldandi Rural Municipality Chairman, Dhan Bahadur Thapa, they are having difficulties to manage quarantines in the lack of proper infrastructure and the logistics. He further appealed that the better management of quarantine centers would not be possible without the support from nongovernmental organisations. “Not just the physical support, NGOs can also support by counselling the people staying in the quarantines and their family members regarding the risk of COVID-19,” he added.
The United Nations assessment conducted in 66 districts, out of 77 districts of Nepal highlighted the lack of proper basic facilities in the quarantine, with limited psychosocial counselling or recreational activities (79% of the respondents say NO), limited safe space for women or provision to handle GBV cases, located far away from the health centres, unavailability of menstrual hygiene facilities (51%) and inadequate disability sensitive toilets (73%).
The local government are asking the family members of those in the quarantines to manage food and logistics by themselves in many districts.
In a discussion with radio journalists of Province 5, Sudurpaschim and Karnali province in western Nepal; they share similar pathetic stories of the quarantine centers across the region. “In one of the isolation ward of Kalikot district; the people were found drinking water directly from the toilet, as they lack proper safe drinking water facilities,” shared Bishnu Neupane, a journalist at Radio Malika, Kalikot district.
Given the situation DCA through its partners have provided logistic support to manage 33 quarantine centers in these districts, with beddings, WASH materials and health accessories like PPE sets, hand sanitisers, soaps, and masks among others.
“This has been a crucial support that we received at this time of crisis. Fifty percent of our problems of the quarantines are managed by the support through SOSEC,” says Ghanashyam Bhandari, mayor of Dullu Municipality in Dailkeh district adding the challenges to manage the people in isolation ward is there as the COVID-19 positive cases are increasing.
Health Accessories for Health Centers
The number of infected cases are rising; so is the need for health accessories. DCA through its local partners, supported 29 public health centers in five districts.
The major support for these health centers were PPE sets, thermal gun, hand sanitisers, surgical and N95 masks, disposable bags, and medical gloves.
Dr. Jyoti Pandey, Medical Superintendent of District Hospital, Doti said that the health accessories support has helped in boosting the morale of the health practitioners at the time of the crisis.
“As we are fighting against the COVID-19 with our limited resources, these support of course have added strength on our morale,” Pandey thanked for the support received through local partner EDC in Doti.
Public Awareness to tackle psychosocial and GBV issues
In a recent nationwide survey conducted by Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Nepal; Preventative measures to contain the coronavirus is having a slow but steady impact on mental health. People are restless, sad, fearful, anxious, and worried for themselves and their families, a study has shown.
As part of Mass sensitisation and awareness raising DCA has launched a Radio Programme named “Sajhedari” in collaboration with 10 FM stations in these districts providing Covid-19 related information to the general public.
PSA broadcasting, phoning programme, interaction with expert are some of the highlights of Radio programme which provide an opportunity to the general public received covid-19 related various information and also give an opportunity to be directly connected with different expert and seek suggestion and guidance.
“We have designed special episodes targeting to the psychosocial counselling and gender-based violence issues,” says Malati Maskey, Programme Manager, Active Citizenship Programme, at DCA Nepal office. “We invite experts to talk on the several aspects of the psychosocial problems and GBV case management during the crisis and also deals with individual problems through the radio show.”
For more information regarding distribution amounts please see the accompanying infographic.