Impact and response in Nepal
Measures during the COVID-19 crisis
The Nepalese government decided on March 23, 2020 with cognizance of the evolving global situation and recourse to the Infectious Disease Act 2020, to lockdown the country effective from March 24 until March 31, 2020. The lockdown has now been extended until May 18, 2020. A high-level coordination committee for COVID-19 prevention and control in Nepal was formed under the coordination of the honorable deputy prime minister and defense minister on March 1, 2020.
High level inter-ministerial committee chaired by the deputy prime minister has been restructured as the Corona Crisis Management Centre (CCMC). The Incident Command System of the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has been activated for COVID-19 response.
World Health Organization (WHO) strategic objectives for COVID-19 response
The overarching goal is to control the pandemic by slowing down the transmission and reducing mortality associated with COVID-19. The global strategic objectives are as follows:
▪ Mobilize all sectors and communities to ensure that every sector of government and society takes ownership of and participates in the response and in preventing cases through hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and individual-level physical distancing.
▪ Control sporadic cases & clusters and prevent community transmission by rapidly finding and isolating all cases, providing them with appropriate care, and tracing, quarantining, and supporting all contacts.
▪ Suppress community transmission through context-appropriate infection prevention and control measures, population level physical distancing measures, and appropriate and proportionate restrictions on non-essential domestic and international travel.
▪ Reduce mortality by providing appropriate clinical care for those affected by COVID-19, ensuring continuity of essential health & social services; protecting frontline workers & vulnerable populations.
▪ Develop safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics that can be delivered at scale and that are accessible based on need (World Health Organization, 2020).
Of the 101 confirmed cases in Nepal, 30 have returned home after winning the battle against the deadly virus. With this, there are a total of 71 active cases who are undergoing treatment at different hospitals of Nepal. No death has been reported so far (Republica, 2020).
Nepal has been in lockdown for seven weeks now, and preventative measures to contain the coronavirus are having a slow but steady impact on mental health. A study was carried out by a team of six Nepali researchers with the technical support from Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Nepal (TPO Nepal). It was conducted from April 23 to May 3 with a sample size of 2082 from across Nepal. According to the research, 18 percent of the respondents suffer from restlessness, another 18 percent experience fearfulness, while 37 percent suffer from anxiety and worry. Some 29 percent experienced sadness most of the time in the last two weeks. 50 percent of the respondents suffered from at least one psychosocial problem, whereas 32 percent suffered from two or more psychosocial problems, such as restlessness, fearfulness, anxiety, worry and sadness.
The first phase of the study was conducted between April 3 and 10, with a similar sample size and methodology. The findings are comparatively higher in the second phase. The prevalence was 43 percent for any problems, and 26 percent for two or more problems.
The second edition of the study has shown that social media, TV, radio and newspapers were the regular sources of information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and one in every eleven respondents reported violence in their community during the lockdown. Also, one fourth of the women reported an increase in their workload during the lockdown period. The study also assessed the status of the relief distribution from the people's perspective. According to the study, 20 percent of the people reported that the relief distribution by local governments and other organizations was well-managed, whereas 38 percent reported that the relief was distributed only to some people, and 13 percent reported that the distribution was unfair.
The researchers have stated that the results of the study demand immediate action from the government and relevant stakeholders to mitigate the psychosocial problems arising from the lockdown (Republica, 2020).
Republica. 2020. Lockdown casts a long shadow on people's mental health: Nationwide survey. Retrieved from: Republica: https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/lockdown-casts-a-long-shadow-on-people-s-mental-health-nationwide-survey/
World Health Organization. (2020). WHO Nepal Situation Updates on COVID-19. Opgehaald van World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/nepal/news/detail/24-04-2020-who-nepal-situation-update