Nepal Braces for Increase of COVID-19 Cases

New cases on the rise . . . 

Nepal confirmed an additional 27 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 402. On May 8, the government began to ease national lockdown measures in place since March 24 and has since seen an increase in cases as more people move about and as the government tests more people. The government is anticipating cases to exponentially rise to between 1,000 and 2,000 over the next two weeks, potentially overwhelming health facilities. While the disease and responses to it have already disrupted the country, Indigenous groups in Nepal are expressing concern that the impacts of and response to COVID-19 may hit them harder than the rest of the country.

Indigenous groups left out of response plans?

With a total population of about 8.5 million, the 59 legally-recognized Adivasi Janajati (Indigenous groups) in Nepal make up 36 per cent of the country's population. Indigenous groups live across the country, but most live in remote and rural areas, making a living out of subsistence farming. The lockdown had food prices fluctuating, stranded people, and made it difficult for many people to access their farms and get their products to market. And given that information on COVID-19 is for the most part in Nepali and not in the 120 or so languages used by these communities means that essential information and programming may not be reaching them. In 2007, Nepal ratified both the International Labour Organization Convention on Indigenous and Tribal People and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but many groups continue to lack access to health care and education.

World aid begins to pour in . . .

Some international financial institutions and countries have begun to offer aid to Nepal to address the COVID-19 related issues such as loss of remittances, tourism, and domestic economy. For example, the International Monetary Fund has approved C$298 million in funding; the World Bank has signed a C$40 million agreement; the United Kingdom has provided a C$1.4 million grant while the Asian Development Bank is negotiating a potential deal. Indigenous pundits in Nepal point out that there is a need to ensure that portions of this aid be earmarked for their communities and needs or else, like much of the international aid following the 2015 earthquakes, it will not help their communities.