In late September, PHASE Worldwide announced the launch of our Rapid Response to support communities in the Far West of Nepal through the ongoing struggle with Covid-19. With funding from UK Aid Direct and the FCDO, the response set out a plan to ensure that essential health services in the Mugu, Bajura and Humla districts are maintained for a period of six months, and that communities have the capacity to reduce the spread of the virus, both now and in the event of a future outbreak.
Now that we are three months into the response, we wanted to provide an update on the progress that has been made and the steps we are taking to ensure that the response meets its three main objectives.
1. Continuity of Essential Health Services
In Nepal, over 280,000 people have now contracted Covid-19, and sadly 1,975 people have lost their lives. Disruption to the economy and peoples’ livelihoods has also resulted in increased levels of acute illnesses, including chronic malnutrition. It is essential that healthcare facilities have the capacity to cope with the increased burden on public health, now more than ever.
PHASE has been supporting 11 health posts across the three districts, which are responsible for providing primary healthcare to over 31,000 people. Staff have assisted in the training of health workers at each centre so that they have the skills and resources to meet the needs of all patients, including those suffering from Covid-19. In three months, a total of 17,896 patients have received care from their local health post.
In this time period, PHASE Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) have helped to safely deliver 215 births, and 374 pregnant women have accessed antenatal services. Staff have also overseen weight monitoring for over 3,800 children under five years of age, among which, 325 were found to be underweight for their age. The parents of these children have subsequently received counselling on the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet for a child’s development.
2. Infection Awareness and Behaviour Change
We have taken 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. This is also an integral process for supporting the healthcare system, as reduced spread of the virus ultimately means there will be less demand for health services.
So far, 516 workshops have been conducted, which have been attended by a total of 5,165 people. During these workshops, those in attendance received masks and WASH products, as well as demonstrations on how to use them correctly. Topics including: the nature of the virus, infection prevention, and hygiene have been discussed in order to improve general public understanding. PHASE staff have also organised daily radio broadcasts and built hoarding boards in 22 locations to update the public on key Covid-19 messages.
A further 221 workshops for traditional healers and 85 workshops for Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) have taken place in the last three months. Traditional healers and FCHVs are both important members of the community responsible for spreading health awareness and directing people to seek further care if it is needed. These workshops have provided specific training to both groups in order to meet the new challenges posed by the pandemic.
3. Prevent the Spread of the Virus in the Event of an Outbreak
It is currently unknown whether the new highly transmissible variant of Covid-19 first discovered in the UK has arrived in Nepal, however, the threat posed by a future outbreak remains. Our Rapid Response includes provisions to help mitigate the worst effects of a potential outbreak, by beginning to prepare health centres and communities now.
Since the introduction of the response, we have purchased 220 sets of PPE items which have been distributed throughout all 11 health centres. A further 81 sets were also provided for government health workers. 18 hygiene stations have been built, and 3,000 sets of hygiene kits have been provided to households that are home to a vulnerable individual. We have also ensured that each health centre will continue to receive deliveries of essential medicines.
The recent development of various vaccines for Covid-19 means that an end to the pandemic is on the horizon. For the remaining three months of our Rapid Response, and into the future, we are committed to making sure that the communities we work with are supported, and that no one gets left behind. To read more about the current Covid-19 situation in Nepal, click here.