As lockdown measures ease in the UK, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Nepal continues to rise. As of June 30th, according to the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), there are over 13,000 cases of coronavirus infections active in 76 districts. In the remote areas in which PHASE works, there have been more positive tests in Bajura, Mugu, Humla, Gorkha and Sindhulpalchowk.
The reporting of new cases across the country and particularly in the regions we support, are of increasing concern to PHASE Worldwide as coronavirus significantly impacts the most vulnerable. To assess the impact of coronavirus, and the subsequent lockdown, earlier this month PHASE Nepal conducted a Covid-19 Rapid Assessment in Mugu. The assessment covered areas of access to market, livelihoods, food security, and health.
The assessment highlighted that coronavirus has already had a significant impact, with national lockdown which has been in place since March, disrupting food security, livelihoods, and nutrition. The added influx of migrants returning home (6.3% increase in male population) has added further pressure.
According to the World Food Programme, during the lockdown across Nepal, 30% of households have lost monthly income. However, our survey shows that 100% of households had lost monthly income, with a mean household decrease of 58% (72% for households with a person with disabilities). To put this into context, this a monthly average income reduction from £203 (pre-pandemic) to £83 (during lockdown).The global poverty threshold is currently a daily household income of $1.90/day. It is testament to PHASE’s quality integrated projects focused on rural livelihoods that even the most vulnerable households earn above this threshold in normal times. However, during the pandemic, significant reductions of income are not sustainable.
There are no social welfare nets in Nepal. Compared to the UK, there are no welfare benefits or furlough schemes, and nowhere to turn to as this crisis grows. The most vulnerable: the elderly, lactating women, pregnant women, female-headed households, and people with disabilities face cross cutting challenges in their daily lives in these remote regions and these challenges are only amplifying with the lockdown restrictions in place since late March. When food stocks are depleted and markets are inaccessible and unaffordable, communities become even more vulnerable.
Over 45% of respondents stated they do not understand what COVID-19 is, over 30% are extremely or very afraid of getting infected or dying from COVID-19, and 23% told PHASE Nepal they do not feel confident in knowing how to protect themselves.
For the people PHASE supports and for Nepal to combat the spread of Coronavirus, knowledge, attitude, and practice needs to improve. We are aiming to achieve this goal by using radio and posters to spread informative messages in these remote areas, but we know from experience that to reach the most marginalised, those who don’t own a radio and can’t read, traditional methods of communication are needed such as ‘Katuwal Messaging’. This involves a messenger with a drum shouting key information in public spaces. This knowledge, experience and local expertise is just one example of how PHASE Nepal works with the communities to ensure that no one is left behind.
For more information on our actions in Nepal during the Covid-19 pandemic, please click here. If you have any specific questions about our work or our response, please don’t hesitate to contact our Director Tom Edwards on firstname.lastname@example.org.