Nepal Urges International Community to help in fight against COVID-19
Prof Hari Bansh Jha

Being helpless to control the unbridled growth in coronavirus cases, the Nepalese Prime Minister, K.P. Sharma Oli has appealed to the international community to help the Himalayan nation by supplying vaccines, coronavirus testing kits, oxygen kits, ICU-related medicines and other necessary equipment in its fight against the COVID-19. This appeal has been made as the second wave coronavirus seems to have engulfed the entire nation, including Kathmandu Valley, cities and even remotest of the remote villages. And, despite the suspension of the domestic and international flights from the first week of May and the imposition of lockdown in almost all the districts, the new coronavirus cases keep on increasing in a geometric ratio.

The number of new coronavirus infected patients increased unprecedentedly from 8,287 on May 8 to 9,317 on May 11. Similarly, the fatalities caused by this disease shot up from 53 to 225 by almost four-fold during this time. The fatality cases are almost doubling each successive day.

The positivity rate in the country touched 52 on May 10, which is not only high in the South Asian region, but also the world. The number of deaths caused by the pandemic has crossed 4,000 and the number of active cases is over 100,000.

Health facilities in Nepal are abysmal. There are only 1,595 ICU beds, apart from 480 ventilators for the entire 30 million population in the country. The ratio of the doctor for 100,000 population is merely 0.7.

As such, most of the COVID-19 patients are not getting proper treatment at the hospitals. For not getting beds at the hospitals, many of the patients have no option but to stay in the lobby or yard of the hospitals for the treatment. Several hospitals are also reported to have refused to admit COVID-19 infected patients. Many of the COVID-19 patients are dying for not getting the oxygen supply at the hospitals or their homes.

It is a pity that even in such a time of crisis, many of the private hospitals have been charging exorbitantly from the COVID-19 patients. The lifesaving medicines and oxygen are acutely in short supply.

People are failing to get universal vaccination. Even those of the 65+ senior citizens who were inoculated the Covishield vaccine have not got its second dose after nine weeks.

Of Nepal’s two neighbours, India provided one million doses of Covishied vaccine to Nepal as early as January this year. Subsequently, Nepal bought one million of the same vaccine from India at the rate of US$ 4 per dose. But the country could not get an additional one million doses of the vaccine from India for which it had paid. This was due to the export ban on the vaccine from India given the sudden spike in new coronavirus cases.

As Nepal needed 44 million of the vaccine to inoculate its 72 percent of the eligible population, it offered to buy additional 5 million doses of the vaccine from India. But the country failed to receive the consignment because of the complications created by those Nepalese middlemen who claim themselves to the representatives of the Serum Institute of Pune in India that produce the vaccine.

On the other hand, Nepal’s northern neighbour, China, provided 800,000 doses of the vaccine Sinopharm in grants. Thereafter, no further supply of vaccine was made by China to this country.

However, it is an irony that when Nepal is badly engulfed by COVID-19, the Chinese have dispatched their team of 21 climbers towards the 25 square meters of Mt. Everest, which divides the territory between Nepal and China at the peak of the world to erect a line on the border of the two countries to avoid any possible infections caused by the mountaineers from the Nepalese side. There are reports that several mountaineers on their trekking route to Mt. Everest have tested coronavirus positive. But many of the Nepalese are not happy at this Chinese move when the country is passing through the most difficult crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic. Expressing his dissatisfaction with this move, Rudra Singh Tamang, Director General of the Department of Tourism in Nepal has stated that no one is allowed to create a separate line at the summit as Everest happens to be an international boundary.

But to save the life of the people, 83 civil society leaders have appealed to China to supply additional vaccines to this country, apart from health equipment, including oxygen cylinders, oxygen plant, oxygen concentrators, PPE and testing kits.

The government, political leaders and the NGOs/INGOs could have played important role in controlling the coronavirus pandemic. But because of the power tussle among the political leaders, the K.P. Sharma Oli’s government has lost its confidence in the Nepalese parliament and the new government has not yet been formed. Also, the NGOs/INGOs whose total annual budgetary expenditure is as high as Rs. 40 billion are nowhere in the picture in combating coronavirus cases in the country.

Understanding the seriousness of the situation, the state needs to work on the war footing to ensure that those of the senior citizens who are at a greater risk at the time of the second wave of coronavirus should be provided with a second dose of the vaccine immediately. Also, the state machinery needs to take immediate action against those of the middlemen, commission agents and health service providers who are selling the health equipment, oxygen cylinders and lifesaving drugs at an exorbitant price. Also, the time has come for the state to impose the national health emergency in the country as all the measures including the lockdown have not delivered the desired result.

In this hour of crisis, the international community also need to come forward with greater zeal to help the Himalayan nation by supplying the vaccines, oxygen, oxygen plants, oxygen concentrators, PPE, ICU related medicines and testing kits. Additionally, the NGOs/INGOs supported mainly by the international community and working in Nepal have the responsibility to contribute their might in combating coronavirus cases. And, those countries that have successfully controlled the spread of the coronavirus need to sendemergency medical teams in Nepal to control the coronavirus cases without any further delay.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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