COVID-19: A perspective from Nepal

COVID-19 is a world-wide problem, affecting people literally from Canada to Nepal. This post was written in June this year by Sonam Sherpa, who works for ABIN in Nepal. She sets out a personal view of how Nepal has been affected.

3 months ago, we did not have any cases. Then new cases begin to show up mostly from the foreign returns/ migrant workers. It was 3 cases at first then it jumped to 3000 cases with 19 deaths. The government announced the lockdown period, at first just for 2 weeks. Then it got extended more and more. The citizens at first did not really take the lockdown and self-isolation too seriously. There were still people meeting up, gathering, working, and even getting married! It was not implemented effectively and the number of cases and deaths kept rising.

The main reason was that most people were labour workers, paid only a daily wage. They had no source of income or any financial support from the government. Some were given 1 kg of rice and lentils but how is that sufficient for a family with children to last a month? Faulty products, expired food stuffs were given out as donations that made many people ill. Corruption was prevalent – some of the rich hoarded the donations meant for the poor, leaving the poor empty handed.

Personally, I have not stuck my foot outside even once during the lockdown. My dad is the one who brings in groceries. As there was no fresh source of vegetables and meat, we ended up having dry foods like Chowchow noodles, dhalmot, beaten rice and mostly rice and lentil (Daal) for a month. I have my online classes daily.

Almost half of the population in the city have gone back to village areas. Due to this movement during the lockdown, the virus spread around quickly. Patients were running away from the hospitals and people who were supposed to be quarantined for 14 days ran away leading to a further rise in cases.

The tests that were carried out were not effective, and it was difficult for our medical staff to carry out the tests. Positive cases of Covid‑19 were often only detected after the death of a patient.

Landlords demanded rents from their tenants (middle class, lower class) knowing that in these circumstances they are not able to pay off debts or even buy essentials to survive. Most of the Nepalese people do not have a bank account or any savings. They earn and spend on a daily basis due to low incomes. In some cases, landlords were cruel enough to stop the water supply and seal off the toilets and even kick out the tenants who were not able to pay the rent. During this pandemic money had greater importance than humanity to some people.

Another problem at the same time was a dispute regarding Lipulekh between Nepal and India. We started having shortages of cylinder gas, so people started to hoard gas, food supplies, masks, gloves, sanitizers to the point that we had a shortage. People were freaked out at this point, and the police handled the situation with brutality. People who were not following lockdown rules were beaten and locked up. At the same time, self-isolation  for people suffering from mental health issues ended in depression leading to suicides.

Next issue, schools, colleges were closed. Online schooling being the only option but as Nepal is a developing country most people do not have access to electronic devices like mobile, laptop, computer and internet/wifi. Even if they have a mobile phone it would be a basic one. People with lower incomes are not able to afford a wifi or even buy a data package because it is so expensive. So, perhaps 60% of the total students are missing out on online classes.

Tourism is the main source of income after agriculture. But due to the pandemic it crashed down. Many were left unemployed. No one is sure when it will recover.

Right now, the lockdown is a bit looser. But there are rumors going around that it is going to be extended. So people have started to hoard food stuffs as the prices will go up.

The current situation of Nepal is a mess just like the whole world.

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