HELP AGAINST CORONA IN HELAMBU, NEPAL

By: Johnny Baltzersen with Rita Tisdall and Gopal Lama 

COVID-19 is everywhere. There are cries for help from all corners of the world. CICED is not a relief organization. And we’re not a big association. Our support will be limited in any case. But the COVID-19 pandemic requires us all to consider where and how we can make a difference. Not least for those who are worst off in this crisis.

Our partner in Nepal, JUST Nepal Foundation/JNF, together with the mayor and local community in the Helambu area north of Kathmandu, have asked for help.

So far, only 9 cases of corona infection have been reported in Nepal. But no one believes those numbers. Very few people have been tested in a population of 30 million. Tens of thousands of Nepalese have returned home from India, the Gulf States and other districts of Nepal over the past 14 days after the government declared the country closed on Thursday. March 24. For the time being, the shutdown will last until d. April 15.

Many of the returnees are quarantined in schools in their respective villages. This is also the case in the Helambu area, where CICED has collaborated with JUST Nepal over the past few years on the project ‘Putting Youth on the Center Stage’.

Accommodation in schools, in relatively close contact with the local population, as well as other uncontrolled returns are of great concern. It’s hard to keep your distance. There are poor hygiene conditions. There is little or no disclosure. And certainly not for those who can’t read. Add to this the many who return home ‘bypassing’ the quarantine check.

Helambu has virtually no means of prevention and the lack of relevant medical equipment is absolute.

Therefore, JUST Nepal in Helambu is launching a campaign focusing on information and basic prevention in relation to COVID-19. The initiative is based on situation reports collected through interviews with 77 young people who participated in youth camps during the previous project.

Three JNF employees have completed the online anti-COVID-19 course at Save the Children. Course materials are being translated, information materials will be printed and distributed through all the young activists. The entire campaign is in close collaboration with Helambu’s mayor and health centers and authorities.

Provide information on how to best protect yourself against coronavirus. Face masks, water tanks and water jugs, soap galore, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves and much more. Create informational materials and radio programs on how to best protect yourself from infection.

Some equipment goes to healthcare workers who are particularly vulnerable. Two doctors have volunteered for the campaign and are provided with two suitable mobile oxygen devices.

The majority of the aid needs to reach the local population. We will pay special attention to reaching the two most disadvantaged and largely excluded groups, namely Tamang and Dalits (the untouchables). From the efforts of other NGOs, donors and the Nepalese government in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake, we know that these two populations are at the back of the queue – even in times of crisis. We can and must do it differently.

The shopping list for the first necessary equipment is ready and amounts to 63,000 DKK.
You need to move fast and there’s no time for fundraising. CICED has donated the money, which is on its way to Nepal.

As mentioned in the last issue of CICED NYT, we keep administrative costs to a minimum, which allows us to save for critical situations. However, we may later invite all members and other CICED supporters to make a contribution to further efforts.

Afterthought

No one predicted a COVID-19 pandemic. Not at all when we designed the Putting Youth on Centre Stage project. The project aimed to engage the youth of Helambu in influencing their own lives and give them hope for a future that wasn’t in the Gulf States, South Korea or India.

First, the four youth camps under the project gave rise to the establishment of a youth cooperative, which will also include anyone who wants to join. Also young people from the Dalit and Tamang communities. CISU has just approved a new project that will focus on building the cooperative over the next 18 months.

Now comes a crisis action plan that builds on the youth, their willingness and ability to help and organize across all population groups in Helambu.

It’s actually not that bad.

Photo shows some of the young people now engaging in the COVID-19 campaign in Helambu

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