PERSONAL STORY 2
I am Kumar Bhattarai from Nepal. Currently I am working with Dopper/SIMAVI supporting ASHA (Access to Sanitation and Hygiene) as a young expert and program coordinator. The program in Nepal will be implemented by National NGO called SEBAC-Nepal. SEBAC Nepal is implementing the ASHA program in four urban and eleven rural municipalities. The project is implemented in line with its local stakeholders to attain the sustainable development goal which is focused on advancing the status towards total sanitation by 2030. The objectives of the project are enhancing access of quality drinking water, improving sanitation and hygiene behaviour, local governance and maintenance of WASH facilities and empower local women and socially excluded groups.
The ASHA project is operating in Nepal's Sindhupalchwok and Dolakha districts where in 2015 earthquakes damaged many water supply schemes and other infrastructure resulting in widespread hardship and challenging conditions for public health and socio-economic development. Through the needs assessment conducted on December 2019, it was found that people expect access of water at HH level. Access of water at HH level helps them with regular cleanliness and time saving for females as they can get water inside their compound. Mainly in the rural communities females have to carry water for long distances, and therefore they have to wake up early. Due to the workload of females they have not got sufficient time to take care of their children and also their own health. Mostly females are victim of diseases because of poor practices of WASH. People want to integrate WASH in livelihood using the waste water in the garden to produce nutritious vegetables for family health.
Gender and social inclusion is the another area of specific attention in each of our project. ASHA aims to develop and implement an access for all and leaving no one behind approach in designing, planning and implementing the WASH interventions under the project with the aim of not only enhancing equal access and participation of girls, boys, women and men in WASH, but using WASH interventions to contribute to greater gender equality and social inclusion.
As a project coordinator I am accountable to implement, plan, operate, monitor and report in the activities of the ASHA program. The worldwide pandemic has halted the program activities.
The first case seen in Nepal was confirmed on 23 January 2020. Another case in Nepal was confirmed on 23 March 2020 in Kathmandu. Nepal took steps to prevent a widespread outbreak of the diseases. The country was totally lockdown effective from 23rd of March 2020 to till the reporting period hence planned activities between Jan-June is quite less than we planned. However maintaining the social distance and adopting all the precautions methods we just able to meet the target to construct the new water supply schemes or drinking purposes at household level. In this pandemic covid-19 we also disseminate messages on how to prevent from Corona through local radios. We had made very good rapport with local stakeholders and supported in public awareness through local means of communication. Our program was totally halted for 40 days. During that period I stayed at home with family. I participated in different online courses to developed my knowledge and capacity. After that with applying means of precautions we started our program. We take the approval from local government and from chief district Office (CDO) office for the executions of constructions work taking the pass. Similarly all the report I used to collect from field is from phone communication with local field level staffs because we cannot travel in the lockdown period
Because of the COVID-19, we have a yearly plan as our planned schedule, but now we look month to month and assess if targets are achieved every month. We are now trying to set up promotional online activities. We adapted radio and social media to health information and give people easier access to this information. There is also new construction happening at the moment which will result in a water supply skim project. Our main focus is on construction, because we are unable to do construction during the rainy season. It is not the rainy season right now and the government has allowed us to continue. We are monitoring if the workers are sick and are taking precautions.
I have been to the Netherlands and visited the Hague and Harlem. I was there for 26 days for training with the advice minister and partners. It was a collaboration there with my local NGO and the company called Dopper, which makes reusable drinking bottles.
In February I returned back from the Netherlands and a month after the coronavirus came to Nepal. Only the supermarkets are open and the rest of the shops and restaurants are closed. After the lockdown was initiated, people stayed inside with their families. Our government was quick with the lockdown because our health system is unable to handle a high number of sick people. I have to take precautions to travel to work. There are several communities in a district and people are not allowed to travel between them. I monitor those activities of the construction with telephone and video, because I cannot go to that community and they can't leave. My hometown is in another community than the office of the NGO. I have decided to rent a room in the community of the office of the NGO and thus far am able to do a better job and keep that job. I take a 5km walk in the morning, but besides that I only travel from my room to the office and back.
I have also experienced the earthquake in 2015 and I was also involved in the restriction projects after that. I was lucky to survive and people are still reconstructing from that disaster.
There have only been three deadly cases detected in Nepal because of the coronavirus, but it is increasing. The greetings have stopped and there is less communication. Transportation is mainly public here and now people are not able to go to the hospital or supermarket. But we have to adjust. Many people from villages are working in the agriculture sector. If it goes on for much longer we will be in trouble - we are dependent on supplies from other countries and our own income will completely stop.
I am not sure about my own health, but if I would get the virus the hospital would not be able to handle the sickness. Many people don't go to the hospital, because of the poor healthcare system. We are only three months in and people are worried about the economy. I just rebuilt my house (because of the earthquake) and I took a loan from the bank and I am afraid how I am going to pay that.
As precautions I use hand sanitizer and wear a mask when I go out. We have made a handwashing station, so that I can wash my hands when I get inside or outside. We also need to keep our distance from each other. I want the coronavirus to go away and have a regular life, but I think that will take a lot of time. People are not able to provide income and their health is declining, we are all afraid of what the future will bring (Bhattarai, 2020)."
''The number of cases is increasing day by day. Almost fifteen people have died now. People are suffering and I feel insecure about the future. I am staying in the office and I only travel to the water supply construction sites. Nobody is allowed to enter my room at the office. To travel we have to get a travel pass from the chief of the district office. People don't like to be close to people that travel because they are scared they are carrying the virus.
My home is 45 minutes from my office so I am staying in a room two minutes from the office. There is a hotel near my room where I eat. I stay at the office until 9. My coworkers report to me from Facebook Messenger and this way I am conducting my work. I have Internet access in my room so I can call with my family. They are also safe, but we don't know when we will start to suffer. In our previous call I mentioned that there was just one death and now there are fifteen and more than 5000 are infected. It is quite scary, especially for those who no longer have jobs and are dependent on the agriculture sector. In Nepal most of the women are responsible for preparing the food three times a day, the workload for women is very high now because whole families are staying together now. Due to the country's lockdown, no work is ongoing. People have not died from starvation yet, but this could be the case later on. Another thing that has been heavily affected is the education of the children. Millions of students are waiting to take their exams.
Usually I would go to the private hospital and sometimes I go to the government hospital. More people go to the government hospitals so there's a cue. I am among those that are scared to go to the hospital, because a lot of sick people go there for treatment so going there seems like a risk. People used to visit the hospital but not anymore. In order to get there they have to travel which also is a risk. If they felt safe, they would go. In my opinion, medical treatment should be provided by doctors, rooms need to be added and resources should be attained. Hospitals should also be more accessible for those living in rural areas.
The NGO has a central office in Kathmandu, I am located in Sindhupal. We are currently renovating old water supplies and constructing new ones. All the while we are maintaining social distancing. Furthermore, we are raising awareness about COVID-19 through a radio program in which we focus mainly on sanitation. Training events are prohibited by the government.
To prevent the coronavirus from spreading it is important to raise awareness - people should know what the disease entails and how to tackle it. I'd say an awareness program should be implemented in the community. People are suffering from extreme poverty due to the virus. Many people have a bank loan and have not been paying back for months. Therefore the government should address the livelihood.
Washing is the most important thing to prevent the virus from spreading, along with proper medical treatment. In the Netherlands everyone has running water, while in Nepal only ten to twenty percent of the households have running water and we cannot drink it. The government should focus op raising public awareness on health and hygiene e.g. in schools and the community. The government is trying but their efforts are not sufficient - they lack money and therefore NGOs have to step in (Bhattarai, 2020).''