April 1 2020

COVID-19: As the virus spreads, Nepal is opting for prevention.

As with our programs in India, we are announcing the temporary cessation of our programs in Nepal in order to comply with the measures taken by the Nepalese government.

As Nepal has also observed its first cases of COVID-19, the government has implemented a general lockdown since March 24th. This was supposed to last only one week, but the announcement of an extension until April 7th was made on Sunday 29 March.

Despite few cases, the economy has come to a standstill

The Nepalese government reports 917 people tested, with 5 positive cases in the entire country, and no deaths as of March 29th. Preventive measures such as the refusal to issue visas, the closure of borders, and the stopping of air traffic (except for emergencies) as well as a confinement which will last until April 7 are intended to prevent a more massive arrival of the virus and to contain it as much as possible.

According to Shalav Rana, our director in charge of humanitarian programs in Nepal, the official figures raise many questions as to their accurateness. Indeed, few people have been tested due to the limited number of tests available. In addition, migration between the Nepalese and Indian borders remained high until very recently, thereby raising risks of the virus’ spread.

The figures provided by the government are therefore uncertain.

The Nepalese health system is very limited, and many infrastructures are not currently able to meet all the hygiene standards recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government (see our article about India for more details concerning these hygiene measures). In this context, the future management of patients requiring intensive care is worrisome.

In order to prevent the economic impact of the virus, the government has put in place measures to help the population while maintaining a certain stability within the country. Wages in the tourism sector are expected to be maintained until May in order to avoid a considerable loss of jobs in this sector. Indeed, the tourism sector accounted for about 7.8% of the country’s GDP in 2017 and is therefore very important for the Nepalese economy. The government also announced this Sunday, March 29, a 10% reduction on the price of basic food, such as rice.

Our actions to reinforce resilience

From the end of January until the announcement of the lockdown on March 23rd, we maintained our Bodhnath Medical Centre and mobile clinics. We have also posted government prevention posters throughout our premises to keep the population informed of the health precautions to be taken.

We know that if the situation continues, the villages we have helped will be able to cope , thereby highlighting the importance of our rural empowerment programs.

As such, we have decided to keep our field coordinators active, as they are our direct relays in the villages. They ensure the proper deployment of our projects and allow us to remain informed of the situation. This activity is the only one that we will maintain, and we will resume the rest of our activities according to the government’s directives and in the strictest adherence to the hygiene measures set by the World Health Organization.

Our actions in these villages are all the more important in this context of crisis. Throughout the year, we work to install solar panels to guarantee access to electricity in the most remote areas. We train villagers in electrical engineering so that they can take care of it independently. We also set up agricultural activities to enable them to be self-sufficient in food.

These development programs are important actions that help provide the countries in which we operate the means to deal with health or ecological crises.

Our support is tailored to meet local needs and provides support for the population every day, every month, and every year.

Nepal must now prevent the impact of the spread of the virus on its population, despite the precariousness of its health system. This crisis, more than ever, shows us the importance of an altruistic revolution! Twenty years ago, Matthieu Ricard made the choice of compassion by founding Karuna-Shechen. In this difficult situation, we continue to hold these notions dear to our founder’s heart, and we too have made the choice of compassion.

« Kindness and compassion are not simply “rewards” given for good behaviour – their essential purpose is to promote the happiness of beings and to alleviate their suffering. » ~ Matthieu Ricard, Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World