Nepal has seen a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases as its southwest neighbor, India, grapples with an overwhelming outbreak. Case numbers and deaths are rising at a breakneck pace.
According to Reuters a mutant, more contagious COVID strain may be responsible for the outbreaks in India and Nepal. Hospitals, such as those along the India-Nepal border, have seen a tremendous increase in demand, with even children and young people in critical condition. Public health experts predict if trends continue, hospital beds would be hard — if not impossible — to find.
Elevate Nepal Co-Founder Dan Maurer is currently on the ground in Nepal. He witnessed a mass exodus from Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu, as a regional lockdown took effect.
“Because people have no source of income due to the lockdown, people have traveled in large numbers back to their hometown villages,” Dan explained. “It was incredible to see huge gatherings of people at the bus parks trying to find transport out of the city.”
Dan was able to leave Kathmandu and is now staying in a village near Hetauda, around 50 miles outside of the city.
“Last year’s nationwide, five-month lockdown was devastating for Nepal in a variety of ways,” Dan said. “From my observations, it seems Nepalis are just as concerned about a lockdown as they are about COVID.”
Most people living in Kathmandu are daily wage earners and lockdown eliminated their only source of income.
The movement of people from the city to rural villages may result in even higher infection rates. This is concerning as rural areas have limited access to health care services, if any at all. Moreover, an influx of people could stress the villages’ resources, such as food and water.
Elevate Nepal continues to encourage best prevention practices, including social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing masks. Dan and In-Country Coordinator Resham Bal recently went to the Sarsyu Primary School (which Elevate Nepal helped to rebuild after the 2015 earthquake) to distribute more than 700 masks to all students and staff, and provide education on the virus’ danger. The following day, schools across Nepal shut down for the next month due to the pandemic.
As we always tell our Nepali friends and colleagues: Stay safe and stay positive!