A few years ago my eyes were opened to the fact that international organizations provide only a fraction of aid that flows into countries after disasters—most of it comes from families, communities, religious institutions, local and national civil society organizations, and governments.
Yet, what I’ve seen online during the Covid-19 pandemic does not reflect that reality, at least not concerning Nepal. Here, for the past year I’ve watched individuals, including an immuno-compromised friend who is unable to get vaccinated, set aside work and family to serve hot food to needy strangers on the streets.
It was startling to learn that Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli admitted in Parliament on Tuesday that Nepal’s two coronavirus deaths to date represent a failure of his government. This raises the question: when will a leader apologise for the more than 1,200 women who die every year giving birth?
When will a Nepali leader apologise for the 1,200-plus women who die giving birth yearly?
The headline of this story refers to Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli, who a couple of weeks ago admitted in Parliament that his government had failed to prevent COVID-19 deaths. (As I write this Nepal has four COVID deaths). When the article was published on the Nepali Times website the headline was changed, removing that point. Regardless, too many women, and other Nepalis, continue dying because of the broken health system.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Nepal’s first COVID-19 death was that of a new mother. It was startling to learn that Prime Minister Oli admitted in Parliament on Tuesday that Nepal’s two coronavirus deaths to date represent a failure of his government. This raises the question: when will a leader apologise for the more than 1,200 women who die every year giving birth? Continue reading “‘We have failed’ new mothers”
Finally in the past two weeks Nepal has started testing larger numbers of people, using so-called ‘rapid diagnostic tests’, although the total is still less than 20,000. That is one of the few bright spots in the government’s response to the pandemic since the first case was confirmed here on 24 Jan. So far the country has been very lucky but it’s time to stop taking the good fortune for granted and get serious about the ongoing lockdown.
The following was published on the Nepali Times website on 17 April:
Shape up the lockdown in Nepal
Going through the motions to quarantine people or wearing masks haphazardly will not help to prevent a devastating outbreak
When I read a few days ago that China and India were willing to provide medical equipment and medicine to Nepal I did a double-take. Surely, this isn’t news, I thought — I’m certain that the giant neighbours would have responded positively to such a request a month, or even two months ago, when it was blatantly obvious that Nepal lacked masks, Covid-19 tests and other materials needed to prevent an outbreak. Of course, what did make it headline-worthy was that the recent inquiry had come from the Nepal Army.
I have no medical training, but given the utter failure of the government to react to the shortage in a timely manner, and to get the big things right more broadly, I think that the smaller ways in which we all react to the threat are going to take on a larger dimension. Yet what I’m seeing in my neighbourhood, and in the media, does not give me confidence.
With only 16 cases detected since January, how seriously are Nepalis preparing for the pandemic?
Nepal’s long land border with India (1,800 kilometres) is usually open, so that citizens of both countries can come and go easily without visas and usually with little notice from the police posted at entry points. On March 24 India closed that border, along with all other access to the country of 1.4 billion people. The same day Nepal also declared a ‘lockdown’ and barred all entries. But it’s been estimated that there are 500 official and unofficial entry points along the imaginary line between the two countries and in the days before and after the lockdowns as close to half a million Nepalis living in India crossed home, according to the Nepali Times newspaper.
Since Nepal’s first case of COVID-19 was detected in January the country has tested just over 6,000 people. Yet only 15 other cases have been detected, and no one has died of the coronavirus. How can that be? is the question that everyone is asking, including officials in the ministry of health.
If the current trend doesn’t change it will take the poorest Nepali families 50 years longer than the wealthiest ones to reach the target for the number of newborn deaths per capita. As the Covid-19 pandemic is leading to discussion about what kind of societies we want to live in, Nepal’s growing inequality should also be on the table. Read my latest article for Nepali Times.
The overall trend in neo-natal deaths is positive, but the poorest families will lag behind further as inequality grows
According to a recent journal article, it will be 2067 before newborn deaths among the poorest Nepalis have fallen enough to reach the global target set for 2030. That target, of 12 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births, was attained by the wealthiest in Nepal four years ago, but the impact of COVID-19 may increase inequality and make it even more difficult for the country to reduce infant mortality.
If the pandemic shutdown is an opportunity to reimagine our societies, what should Nepal make of the widening gap in newborn deaths? Yes, overall trends are improving — both maternal and newborn health have made major gains in recent decades — but the poorest families are still lagging behind.
My latest article for Nepali Times, published today, 31 March, focused on the Government of Nepal’s policy of not letting citizens into the country since a lockdown began one week ago. Hundreds of people, most of them day labourers who were left without work after a similar lockdown in neighbouring India, are being blocked from entry at the India-Nepal border.
Nepal and India stop citizens from returning
Nepali workers in India headed home on foot and by bus only to find their own country was not allowing them in.
India — Hit By Coronavirus Lockdown, 90-Year-old Kajodi Trudges Home, 400 Km Away
Thousands of migrant workers are leaving cities after the central government announced a three-week nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. — Outlook India
Nepal Supreme Court refuses to order government to repatriate migrant workers
The Supreme Court refused to issue interim order sought by advocates Madhav Kumar Basnet and Mina Khadka Basent to allow Nepali citizens stranded in foreign countries, including India, to return home. — The Himalayan Times
No exceptions with COVID-19: “Everyone has the right to life-saving interventions” – UN experts say
Hello. There is so much information available on Covid-19 that I’m reluctant to add more, but a lot of it is good (or really bad) so I’m going to start sharing pieces that are already online. I’ll do this for a couple of days and if I see that people are interested I’ll continue.
Daily wage workers are more worried about starving to death than Covid-19
Most worker households are likely to have enough supplies and savings for a week but if the lockdown is to continue, they will need government’s help, activists say — Kathmandu Post
Protecting those who protect us from the epidemic
Hospital staff in Nepal at the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19 lack protective gear —Nepali Times
Transparency. Concealing information fuels conspiracies, rumour-mongering and the ‘fake news’.
March 24, 2020
Full marks to the Nepal government for imposing the much tougher lockdown that we are living under since 6AM today. As of Monday afternoon it was still possible for Kathmanduites to get a suit tailor-made, meet friends for chiya and chat, or celebrate a birthday at a favourite restaurant. That made no sense: pandemics demand much more than half-measures.
Inexplicably the coronavirus has not walloped Nepal yet while it has devastated countries from our northern neighbour China to Italy and the United States. With only two confirmed cases here we need to learn from those sad examples. Keeping people at home under lockdown will go a long way towards ensuring that no further social transmission occurs. Continue reading “Nepal locked down, now what?”
This article was published on the Nepali Times website on Monday, and got a huge amount of interest (9,000+ page views in less than 24 hours). There was a lot of criticism, at least on Twitter, that the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ that is discussed should not have been broached now because it has not been scientifically proven.
I disagree because the idea has been floating around and discussed informally since the outbreak began, and I think it’s better that it be given a public airing than ignored. What do readers think?
“It just doesn’t make sense!” You might have heard this phrase more than once lately in the context of Nepal and COVID-19: next to the epicentre in Wuhan and host to a large number of Chinese tourists and residents, this country has still only recorded one case of the coronavirus, and the person recovered. How can that be?
You might also have heard, and scoffed, at the rumour that Nepalis have superior immune systems. ‘Nepali people have a stronger immunity power’ was one reason given in this article for why COVID-19 has not hit the country yet. As time goes on and the number of cases remains at just one, could there actually be something to the claim? Continue reading “Covid-19, Nepal and the hygiene hypothesis”