PERSONAL STORY 4
'At the end of this page you will find videos'
''I live with my wife and one-year old son in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. In Kathmandu there are around 3 million people. I have been working for Habitat for Humanity for seven years as a volunteer coordinator. Habitat for Humanity aims for a world in which everyone has a decent place to live. We provide training to youth - our projects always include vocational training with an emphasis on increasing the knowledge and capacity of the communities. Also, we build decent and disaster-proof homes, work strategically together with the government to unlock housing funds for the poor, marginalized and disaster-affected populations and work together with local NGOs to strengthen the housing microfinance sector. This way we significantly increase access to housing loans to low-income families in rural communities underserved by the existing financial market, and we encourage families to adopt environmentally sustainable building materials and technology through our home construction.
A woman travelled to Nepal by plane and was infected with the coronavirus. Since that moment Nepal has been in lockdown and all industries have been closed. This was 52 days ago. Citizens, in particular elderly, children and pregnant women, are not allowed to go outside. Grocery shopping is only allowed between 6am and 9am. The police are controlling the distance between people. If you are not following the rules, the police will beat you or you have to stand still for 4-5 hours at one place. Whenever I go to the supermarket I follow the guidelines provided by the government. I keep the distance and wear personal protective equipment (PPE's) like masks, gloves, glasses, trousers. I also go on my mountain bike - I wear a helmet, which also gives me some protection.
My life is very restricted during the coronavirus. I have to stay at home and only have a balcony. My wife works at a bank and works from 9am till 4pm. My son is staying with my parents, because we do not have the time to take care of him. He will return after the crisis. My 91 year old grandmother is currently unable to receive care. Therefore my parents are taking care of her. Most of the time I am home alone and I am struggling mentally with the situation.
The number of cases is increasing and I expect the lockdown to continue for a while. The situation is not in control. I think the COVID-19 crisis is having a major impact on Nepal. The country will have a major economic loss and it will take a long time to recover from the effects. About 100.000 Nepalese people worked in India, but had to return because their contracts did not get extended. Employment in Nepal was already low, but the return of these people will further increase the unemployment rate in the country.
Because of the coronavirus the programs of the organization are cancelled till the end of the year and the office is closed. I am now virtually working at home. I am planning, reporting and documenting four days a week. NGOs are downsizing and a lot of jobs will be lost due to the coronavirus. The situation in Nepal makes me unsure about my job. I am currently using up my leave.
Furthermore, the highways in Nepal are abandoned. Normally I would travel 60 minutes with traffic, but because of the coronavirus it will now take me 15 minutes (Khatiwada, 2020).''
''Nepal is still in lockdown and the number of cases is rapidly increasing. After our last Skype call not much has changed in my personal situation. I still work virtually from home, but the internet and electricity is not always working correctly and sometimes it takes some time to recover this. But in general I'm feeling better. My wife is still working at the bank and my son is still with my parents. I haven't seen him in a while. The police have become less strict, so I can take short walks nearby. It's not easy to cross to another district. If you try that, the police will keep you on hold for a few hours. Also the number of traffic on the roads is increasing. Habitat for Humanity Nepal, my NGO, maintains the safety of the community and the staff. Some of the staff members are allowed to work in the field with high level precaution to distribute relief materials, but if you are able to work from home, you have to do that.
The situation in Nepal is very insecure. If the current situation will continue, people will die because they are starving and the economy will suffer even further. In my opinion the best precaution is to work virtually as much as possible. For example students following classes online and adults working from home. I find social distancing a good precaution as well to protect yourself from the coronavirus. The government should raise awareness in the community regarding the virus and slowly resume everything, because there is no vaccine against the virus. Otherwise the economy will collapse. The lockdown was good in the beginning, but not anymore.
Some hospitals do not allow corona patients because they don't have protective equipment. The government must invest more in health care and that there are facilities for both corona patients and non-corona patients. Patients with symptoms are picked up by government employees and taken to hospital. There are more private hospitals than government hospitals, but he cannot afford a private hospital. Private hospitals do have resources, but not enough.
The government wants to resume slowly the economy, otherwise the economy will worsen even further and people will die because they're starving. It's too early to release the lockdown. The government has developed a plan to resume the economy step by step. The plan is based on a 2 month process, but a decision is yet to be made. The plan gives the Nepalese people hope.
As per the six-phase plan to ease the lockdown, which is under discussion at various levels, more businesses will be allowed to open in two-week intervals, provided they follow through with health protocols. In the first phase, agricultural products and daily consumer goods distribution centres will be allowed to open, along with stores that sell essential goods and departmental stores.
In the second phase, all health institutions, online media and relief centres will be allowed to open while government offices and print media will be partially opened. In the third phase, private vehicles will be allowed to move, based on odd-even plate numbers, along with long-distance public vehicles and domestic flights.
In the fourth phase, most sectors, except for educational institutes and large businesses, will be opened with physical distance protocols. International flights will also be allowed partially.
In the fifth phase, schools, universities, entertainment and construction services, information and communication organisations, banking and financial organisations, sports, religious places, and government and private offices would be allowed to open.
The sixth phase will be a complete opening up of the country (Khatiwada, 2020).
Khatiwada, A. (2020, May). Personal story COVID-19 from Habitat for Humanity Nepal (Y. Wilts, M. Bakker & N. Soumahu, interviewers)