Following the Covid situation in India, the number of cases in Nepal went from under 100 a day in March, peaking at over 9,000 cases in mid-May. The Kathmandu valley area has been in lockdown since the end of April, and this has now halved the number of reported daily cases. The country has just announced the lockdown being extended until June 14th – with some economic activity being allowed to resume for limited hours a day.
India and Nepal share an open, porous, border with no passports required and citizens can walk freely across borders. When the situation in India became severe, the Government made attempts to limit border crossings, but this, along with businesses closing in India, led to tens of thousands of Nepalis rushing to head home, bringing the virus with them. Also, like India, the Government failed to take the situation seriously, allowing religious festivals and political rallies to be held, which has all helped to inflame the current outbreak.
This has created devastation in an already devastated country where, again, like India, hospitals are being completely overloaded. They are running out of oxygen, patients are dying and only 0.3 per 1000 people are in hospital beds, the rest are in corridors and streets. Nepal’s healthcare system is exceptionally weak, according to World Bank data, is has just 0.7 physicians per 100,000 people (India has 0.9 percent).
I received the following messages from Rabindra in early and mid-May, which shows the desperate situation they have been in:
“We are safe and staying at home. The Government has extended lockdown for one more week to break the chain… It’s getting worse… from 20 covid cases a day, 10 days ago now it has gone 9000 cases a day…There is shortage of oxygen and people are dying due to lack of oxygen and health facilities have collapsed. We can’t imagine within short period of less then two weeks covid has spread so fast. We are praying and hoping for the best”
“We are fine and staying safe inside house. But very worried about the situation. All the biggest hospitals of Nepal and in KTM have announced that they cannot take any covid patients because we don’t have oxygen. Nepal has become the 2nd country in the world in terms of spreading covid and death and the graph shows that its even worst then India. So, everyone is panicking… Yesterday two friends from Kavre and my relatives passed away… the situation is so bad and we are just praying and hoping for the best…”
To date, only 1.49 percent of the country’s 29 million people have received the vaccine, and with India stopping the progress of sending vaccines to the country, this has now almost completely stalled. The world is still yet to come to the aid of this impoverished country.
Thankfully, all those who we support at the Himalayan Leaky Foundation are safe. They have been able to successfully stay in lockdown and continue to be supported by the HLF team. It’s easy when you live in a westernised country, to be okay with this virus ‘just being the flu’ or something created by others– but the reality of living in the poorest country in the world means that this is a scary, and real life or death situation for millions of people. Whilst our main concern at present, is for the HLF team to stay safe and well, when we are able to resume all of our work, we will be there to continue to offer support to the most vulnerable.