Tragically, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nepal has exceeded 47,000, with 300 confirmed deaths. Around 1,000 new cases are being detected each day. Local lockdowns and curfews are being enacted across the country – currently Kathmandu, Pokhara, Surkhet and Nepalgunj are all at varying levels of lockdown. This is having a significant impact on the livelihoods of wage labourers and on the health of many vulnerable people.
INF’s response to the pandemic has been multifaceted, involving all aspects of our health and community programs. By the end of July, INF was assessing an average of four patients per day for COVID-19 symptoms and had developed safety protocols and guidance for staff in all hospitals and community programs. Food relief had been organised and delivered in conjunction with local government in twelve locations across seven districts. INF ambulances had transported 317 Covid-positive patients to isolation centres in Banke and Surkhet, at the request of local health authorities. Personal Protective Equipment, medical supplies, blankets and mattresses had been provided to local authorities in all INF’s working areas. Water tanks and soap had been supplied to all community programs to ensure that community meetings could take place with proper hygiene and distancing.
Fear and stigma around the disease is increasing across Nepal, with many people who have tested positive – or are contacts of those who have tested positive – facing ostracism and even threats. With a handful of positive cases [all recovered, thank God] already occurring among staff, INF is working to ensure that we can support any INF personnel or volunteers who might come to be in such a position [through food, accommodation and pastoral support] and also to raise awareness and combat stigma and fear in the community.
It is a long road ahead. But we will continue to walk this road in service of the people of Nepal.