The situation in Nepal has been a challenging one. Lockdowns and other restrictions have made it difficult for Nepali’s who would usually travel abroad to seek work, and tourism has been slow to return to the country. The economic impact on an already struggling country has been severe. Furthermore, the true extent of the covid-19 situation in Nepal has been difficult to track due to a limited testing capacity. It is feared that the number of confirmed cases is significantly lower than actual cases. Much of Nepal remains under-resourced in terms of both testing capacity and vaccine access and their weak healthcare system is unable to cope under such constant strain.
As of the 1st of December 2021, according to the Health Ministry of Nepal, the countrywide death toll has now reached 11,526 and the number of active cases stands at 6,931. A recent article published by the Nepali Times states that deaths from covid-19 are far higher in remote villages than in urban areas, due to a lack of appropriate healthcare and limited testing and vaccinations. It states, “Public health experts blame the limited health care facilities in rural Nepal including ICU’s, ventilators, drugs and oxygen for Covid-19 treatment for this huge discrepancy. They also have notably fewer doctors, nurses and other paramedics.” Back in June, the Ministry of Health and Population distributed rapid antigen tests amongst rural communities, which caused detected cases in those areas to increase from 0.4% in May, to 25%. This serves to highlight that cases may in fact be far higher than originally stated, but a lack of testing makes it impossible to retrieve a true figure.
Nepal launched its vaccination campaign at the beginning of 2021 and as of the 1st of December, 17.2 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, but only 27.4% of the country’s roughly 30 million people had been fully vaccinated.
From October 2020 to March 2021, PHASE Worldwide delivered a Covid-19 Rapid Response Project in the Far West of Nepal. Although this response has now reached its end, health workers and communities in the Far West are now far more prepared for an increase in cases than they were previously. The prevention work put in place during the Covid-19 Rapid Response will continue to benefit these communities, with the provisions distributed across the region helping to mitigate the worst effects of this second outbreak. PHASE worked with Female Community Health Volunteers, providing them with training on how to mitigate the worst effects of the virus. As stated in a recent bmj article, “FCHVs have been at the forefront of successful immunisation campaigns in the past, and, with the proper training, supplies, and support from government and non-governmental organisations, they and other frontline health workers can help bridge the gap between last mile communities and lifesaving treatment such as vaccines.”
During our response, we took a number of steps to disseminate knowledge of the dangers of the virus, and how people can go about their daily lives without posing a risk to themselves and their communities. In addition, 3,000 Hygiene Kits were distributed amongst vulnerable households and 220 sets of PPE items were given to all 11 PHASE Health Posts. This was a crucial process for supporting the healthcare system, as a reduced spread of the virus ultimately means less pressure on struggling health services.
The Covid-19 situation is a rapidly changing one. As contagious variants spread from country to country, it is difficult to predict how health services in the UK will cope under the increased strain, let alone the already weak healthcare structure in Nepal. Until rates of vaccinations in Nepal increase, thousands of people remain under threat, particularly those living in the remote rural areas in the Far West, where health facilities are already struggling.
Right now, Nepal needs help to fight the virus, but will continue to need our support for many years to come as the country slowly begins to recover. We are asking the public to donate to help raise funds for our work strengthening healthcare systems and ensuring that everyone everywhere, can access essential healthcare.
Nepal needs your help now, more than ever. Covid-19 is pushing an already weak healthcare system to its limits and is causing unnecessary suffering to thousands of vulnerable people. Please support us if you can via our Just Giving Page.