COVID-19: Nepal's latest emergency

Updated: Apr 29


[Photo: INF Nepal]

As the number of worldwide cases of coronavirus surges past 3 million, Nepal continues its battle with the virus as 53 cases are confirmed across the country. On 23rd March, the country’s government implemented an early and strict lockdown to contain the virus, but numbers continue to grow.

As in many poorer countries, the lockdown leaves people who rely on daily piece-work to provide food with nowhere to turn to provide for their families. Migrant workers, including those who travel to India, have been stranded – unable to provide for their families or to return home. People have gone to extreme lengths to return home, including taking their lives in their hands to swim across the Mahakali river which forms part of the border between India and Nepal.

Living between emergencies

The coronavirus pandemic has driven people into their homes, but in 2015 people fled from their homes when a devastating earthquake struck. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Gorkha region of Nepal, claiming over 9,000 lives.

Five years later, the scars of the earthquake are still there to see. Great strides have been made in rebuilding but still 44% of health institutions damaged during the earthquake are yet to be reconstructed, yet these facilities are needed now more than ever. Construction is at a standstill because of the lockdown.

In the UK, we have seen our healthcare services, government and industries quickly transform to focus their efforts on tackling COVID-19. However, some countries, like Nepal, are living between emergencies. Nepal continues to recover from the effects of the 2015 earthquakes, which themselves came amidst a political and social crisis stemming from a blockade at the India-Nepal border. Monsoon flooding causes frequent loss of life and damage to vital infrastructure – including in 2019, when floods and landslides caused at least 117 deaths.

Coronavirus is an emergency for a country already in crisis. Nepal must keep coronavirus at bay while dealing with the legacies of previous emergencies, and while preparing for seasonal monsoon rains in July. All this on top of meeting the present needs of one of the poorest countries in the world.

EMMS International’s partner’s response

EMMS international’s partner, INF Nepal, has been on the frontline of many of the country’s crises including the 2015 earthquake and 2019 floods. In the aftermath of the earthquake, they conducted research into the effect of disasters upon the care of rural palliative care patients. As such, they are well placed to serve in this new emergency and to ensure people’s ongoing health needs are met.

Green Pastures Hospital, in Pokhara, is carefully re-opening a low level of outpatient services. These had been stopped during the lockdown, but now patients are being called in for appointments on an individual basis, after first having a telephone consultation.

A donation to EMMS International’s Emergency Appeal will help provide resources to frontline healthcare workers including personal protective equipment and handwashing kits. This essential equipment will protect workers, help stop the spread of the virus and ensure people are able to continue to access the health services they need.

Prayer Points

Please pray for:

1. Strength for the people of Nepal facing yet another crisis - pray that people would have access to food and vital services during the lockdown.

2. Migrant workers struggling to return home – pray for their safety and for provision for them and their families.

3. The government of Nepal - pray that they would be wise in using the country’s resources to meet the competing challenges.

4. Green Pastures Hospital and INF Nepal – give thanks for their experience and commitment to providing healthcare in such difficult circumstances, and pray for their protection as they serve on the frontline.

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