31 Mar Coronavirus pandemic: update from Nepal
In these most turbulent of times, this page will include updates about the INF family’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Nepal, and how you can join us in prayer.
Updated on Thursday 2nd April:
The nationwide lockdown has now been extended by the Nepali government until 7th April, with no international flights until 15th April.
Pokhara now has its own coronavirus testing equipment and more essential medical supplies (for example, 1,000 sets of personal protective equipment), which have been flown in from Kathmnadu. INF has set up tents at the gates of Green Pastures Hospital for a fever clinic (to screen patients who arrive at the hospital). Any suspected cases of COVID-19 are referred for testing at other hospitals in the province which have been selected as the pre-isolation and referral hospitals for COVID-19 patients.
In their regular healthcare services, Green Pastures is using video for a daily dermatology clinic, which will allow the hospital to continue its service for leprosy patients.
Meanwhile, staff at the hospital are being added to the Gandaki provincial government’s roster of medical personnel, to be available as required. Some health workers do not want to go home so they do not expose their elderly parents to the virus – in such cases, they can use IIFS Guest Houses on the Green Pastures site.
All community work in Nepal has been suspended under the lockdown, so INF Nepal staff based in communities are preparing individual contingency plans based on the local situation. The Community Programmes team and Partnership team are also evaluating the potential long-term impacts of the lockdown on the communities we serve.
INF’s district offices have also had requests for help: Kalikot has received the request to provide some tarpaulin to help establish a quarantine centre; Banke has already donated 100 surgical masks and four N95 masks from its stock; and Bajura also donated some blankets to the nearby quarantine centre that has been set up recently.
Updated on Wednesday 25th March:
As of yesterday morning (24th March), the whole of Nepal is in a week-long lockdown and has since announced its third confirmed case of COVID-19. From the latest we’ve heard, it appears that the first day of lockdown seemed to be effective in most parts of the country, even though it was implemented at very short notice. The administration has clarified there is no curfew and that essential services and stores will still open, however in reality people were facing some difficulties getting supplies and moving around.
Testing for the virus is very limited and there are obvious concerns (as in many developing nations) about how quickly the healthcare system could get overrun if the disease spreads.
Green Pastures Hospital is still open and medical workers can go to work, but all other movements are strictly prohibited.
However, what’s reassuring is to hear how INF is contributing to Nepal’s national and regional response to the pandemic. Here’s more detail from Thomas Meier (INF Nepal’s Partnership and Communications Director):
“The Gandaki Provincial Government is coordinating with national governmental agencies, hospitals, and non-governmental organisations – such as INF Nepal, Red Cross, and the World Health Organisation – to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
“INF Nepal has partnered with the government to ensure critical supplies are available to conduct testing, managing quarantine and provide medical intervention as needed. INF Nepal is also assisting by sharing its extensive clinical knowledge with government staff. INF’s communications team is also working closely with the government to develop and promote public health and hygiene messages across communities.
“It is a compelling example of the trust and respect for INF that we are the only local NGO to have partnered with the government in this way.
“INF Nepal has also formed its own task force and prepared contingency plans for responding to the coronavirus; protecting patients and hospital staff; liaising with government and communicating with staff, patients, communities and the public.”
In the wider country we are starting to see the impact of the national lockdown and India closing its border with Nepal. As we have seen in the past, this will lead to shortages and price increases. In response, the government of Nepal is preparing to distribute essential food items to the neediest people through local governments, with NGOs that are able to help working with them. INF Nepal is acutely aware of the needs of the poorest and most marginalised in their working areas and is working to see how it can best support them.
Some of INF Nepal’s expats have already travelled home to be closer to family members, but the plans of others to get flights today are now in major doubt. Some have chosen to stay put, despite knowing that it could be many months before they could leave the country. Please do pray for all affected by the lockdown announcement.
Praying for Nepal
We were delighted to join INF supporters from around the world in an online prayer meeting on Sunday 29th March. Many thanks to Ben Thurley, CEO of INF Australia, for organising this – with Bible readings and prayers led by people in Nepal, New Zealand, Australia and the UK.
We’re currently looking at other ways of resourcing the prayers of INF/UK supporters – watch this space!
Stand with the people of Nepal through this global crisis
Thank you so much for your fantastic support for INF and the people of Nepal, both financially and in prayer. At this time of great uncertainty your continuing dedication and commitment is needed and appreciated even more.
Together, we can ensure INF continues to serve Nepalis long after this pandemic has passed.