INF has always cared for the poorest and most vulnerable people in Nepal. Whether it is treating those with illness or disability through our hospitals and community-based work, or working to support and empower women and men to make a change in their communities, we are there – motivated by faith, hope and love. Our response to the global coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic is no different.
Though – as of writing – Nepal has only two confirmed cases of coronavirus (who have recovered), with limits to testing and an overstretched health system, an outbreak will have a severe impact in Nepal. INF is working across its hospitals [Pokhara, Nepalgunj and Surkhet] and community programs to prepare and is coordinating with the government to prevent the spread and protect the most vulnerable.
The Gandaki Provincial Government is coordinating with national governmental agencies, hospitals, non-governmental organisations [such as Red Cross, World Health Organisation & INF Nepal] and the media to provide testing, manage quarantine and support medical interventions as needed. INF Nepal has been partnering with the government to help ensure critical supplies such as Personal Protective Equipment and sharing clinical knowledge.
INF’s communications team is also working very closely with the Government to develop and promote necessary public health and hygiene messages via their website, social media, print & online media and press releases. INF Nepal has also formed its own task force comprising staff from different departments to prepare contingency plans for responding to the coronavirus. The main objectives of the task force are to ensure the safety and health of INF staff and the people with whom we work, liaise with government to provide a clear and concrete understanding of stages of outbreaks, communicate clearly with staff, communities & the public, and to continue the work of INF Nepal to the greatest extent possible while minimising the associated risks.
It is a profound sign of the trust and regard in which INF is held that we are the only NGO chosen to partner Government in this way. Our staff and volunteers will be adapting to a new, and rapidly changing situation, but can also draw on INF’s many years of experience as a first-responder in disasters.
What’s happening at INF?
INF believes in the reinforcement of good infection control practices and is kept as the topmost priority at the moment. It is mandatory for all staff and patients to enter the office premises only after washing their hands. All the INF hospitals are subjected to triage visitors at the gate with temperature check and a brief questionnaire about whether recent fevers and coughs. They are directed appropriately if unwell they are encouraged to seek medical attention. The hospital management team is also monitoring the visitors in order to minimise the chances of crowds for registration and check-ups.
Likewise, the shortage of surgical masks and other masks in the market is very evident. Keeping this in view, production and distribution of cloth masks have already begun in INF’s Surkhet branch office for staff and in-patients. INF’s Initiative for Financial Sustainability [IIFS] will also be producing masks for INF hospitals, offices and projects. INF’s Surkhet and GPH will be producing hand sanitiser and supplying to other INF centres and offices.
Staff education about the disease and personal protective measures is also being carried out regularly through email updates, social media posts and printing of IEC materials. INF has also initiated the hotline service for its staff members to attend the queries regarding organisational and medical issues.
At present, INF’s management team and response team is closely monitoring the national and global situation. INF keeps its offices and services open as of 23rd March until further notice. Let’s remain as one family, encourage each other and support the community and individuals who are in need of us.
Update – Breaking News
The Government of Nepal has decided to institute a week-long nation-wide lockdown as of 6am on Tuesday 24 March. Except for medical emergencies and essential purchases, or for people working in identified essential sectors (such as health, food production, water and electricity supply) no-one is allowed to leave their houses. All vehicular movement, including domestic flights, except for security and emergency services is also banned.
INF hospital services remain open and active. All other staff are working from home. As noted earlier, INF’s management team and response team will continue to monitor the situation and seek to ensure the health and safety of our staff, patients and the communities we serve.