“CARE is deeply concerned about the escalating COVID situation in Nepal and the impact on vulnerable community members, including women and girls. The second wave is proving far worse than the first with an alarming 47% of COVID tests returning a positive result. Over 400,000 cases have been recorded in Nepal with more than 9,000 new cases on 10 May alone, the highest daily reported cases so far, and testing rates are low, while the recovery rate is worse than the global trend, which is a worry,” said Mona Sherpa, CARE Nepal Interim Country Director.
Thousands of migrant workers returned from India before the border closed in late April. Limited quarantine facilities in Nepal, coupled with a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen, will undoubtedly lead to a further deterioration of the situation in the country, where the Indian COVID strain has been detected.
CARE is working with the government and local partners to respond to the COVID crisis. Some 1,000 face shields were distributed recently through the Ministry of Health and Population to protect frontline health workers in Lumbini Province, which borders India. In 2020, CARE Nepal distributed close to 500,000 face shields plus personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser to support frontline health workers.
CARE has been continuously advocating for a fast and fair roll-out of the vaccine and to prioritise the most vulnerable groups for vaccinations. CARE mobilised female community health volunteers in two rural municipalities to raise awareness about vaccines and to identify and refer priority groups for vaccination.
“The CARE-led Rapid Gender Analysis revealed that gender-based violence, including marital rape, has increased considerably in Nepal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the findings in the analysis, CARE, along with partners, has been advocating for a gender-sensitive COVID response. CARE is sharing violence prevention messages through radio, social media and community workers and providing psychosocial support and referral services to those affected by violence.
“The situation for vulnerable families whose livelihoods depend on daily wages is also incredibly difficult. They’re struggling to meet day-to-day needs as their movement and work opportunities are restricted due to lockdowns in hotspot areas of the country,” explained Ms Sherpa.
CARE plans to scale-up its response to the intensifying COVID crisis by continuing to support infection prevention and control, including supporting the most vulnerable households, such as those headed by single women, improving water, sanitation and hygiene facilities at health and quarantine centres, providing much-needed food to vulnerable households and support to women and girls with kits that include menstrual hygiene and reproductive health essentials.
The Deputy Mayor of Nepalgunj Rural Municipality, Uma Thapa Magar, said, “Treatment is the most important aspect at the moment. With the increasing number of cases, we require support such as oxygen, oxygen cylinders, and oximeters to continue the treatment of patients.” There is also a need for more PPE and hand sanitiser as stocks are decreasing.
Ms Sherpa explained how the upcoming monsoon season could exacerbate the COVID situation, “Monsoon rains pose further potential challenges as most of the COVID hotspots are in areas regularly impacted by monsoon-related disasters, including floods and landslides. These disasters can affect livelihoods and health and can literally wash away houses and belongings in an instant. The coming days, weeks and months will be incredibly tough for the people of Nepal and we need to work together to avert a complete catastrophe.”
CARE started its operations in Nepal in 1978. CARE Nepal works to address systemic and structural causes of poverty and social injustice such as discrimination based on gender, caste, class, ethnicity or geography. CARE supports humanitarian actions to address vulnerabilities from climate change and natural disasters. CARE works with marginalised women and adolescent girls to ensure their empowerment, wellbeing and dignity through social transformation and access to quality social and economic services.
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