Since April, Nepal has been experiencing an alarming COVID-19 surge, with a steep rise in cases from 162 cases/day at the beginning of April up to 9,300 cases/day (319 cases per 1,000,000 people) in May; case positivity rate as high as 47 per cent; and 4,000 deaths. On a similar COVID-19 trajectory as India, Nepal’s previously weak health system has been overwhelmed, there is insufficient oxygen treatment capacity and hospitals and care staff are stretched to the limit.
Thousands of returning migrants are entering Nepal from neighbouring India through multiple border entry points along the porous border. UNICEF is supporting border authorities at points of entry (PoE) in intensive efforts to ensure rapid testing, isolation or quarantine and to organize on-ward movement to various parts of the country, through provision of essential supplies and transportation of confirmed COVID-19 returnees to isolation centres and hospitals.
UNICEF provided critical health equipment including 750 oxygen concentrators, 1,100 pulse oximeters, 20 BiPap machines, 11,259 home isolation kits, 2 million surgical gloves, 2,000 body bags, and other supplies. Gaps remain for personal protective equipment (PPE), lab/test supplies, oxygen and infection, prevention, control (IPC) supplies
Nepal’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign which started in January 2021 had made good initial progress, with 2.1 million people, nearly 7% of the eligible population, vaccinated with at least the 1st dose of COVID-19 vaccine. COVAX/UNICEF delivered 348,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, 3 million syringes, 5,000 safety boxes and supported overall communication efforts to raise demand and awareness. Due to global vaccine scarcity and the related halting of the expected additional vaccine deliveries, vaccination efforts have been constrained and Nepal is in urgent need of additional vaccine doses to complete vaccination of high-risk groups and beyond, especially during the current surge.
The most vulnerable groups including children, their families, migrant returnees and child- and female-headed households bear the brunt of the COVID-19 impact highlighting the critical need for humanitarian response and crisis recovery efforts at all levels. UNICEF supports the continuation of essential services such as health, WASH, nutrition, protection, education and family livelihoods.
As per the COVID-19 emergency response plan, UNICEF Nepal urgently needs an additional US$ 21,297,325 to ensure a response for families and children in Nepal during the current crisis. If this funding is not secured UNICEF’s ability to provide lifesaving assistance will be severely limited.