Thursday, October 21

‘Urgent. Oxygen is needed ‘: Nepalese mobilize to take charge of the Covid crisis | Global development

TO ping and: “A bed is needed in the ICU. Please, it’s urgent. “Another ping:” Where can I find Remdesivir? EMERGENCY. ” Ping: “A very urgent oxygen cylinder is needed, patient in the last stage.” The messages never stop; a steady stream of stalls asking for hospital beds, oxygen, plasma, and medicine.

It is not the Nepalese government helpline, but an online group created by a 24-year-old public health graduate.

When Prashikchhya Parajuli and his friends saw the increase in coronavirus cases in India, they knew that Nepal would be next. They launched a Viber group to share health tips with the public, but it was soon inundated with messages asking for help. In response to every desperate request, advice is given, phone numbers shared, and advice passed on on where to find a hospital bed.

“There is a public health crisis and a political crisis,” says Parajuli. “People are crying out for help, but they are not being heard. The government is concerned for its own survival. So everyone is doing the best they can on their part. Even those who have lost loved ones keep trying to help. It’s heartbreaking. “

In Nepal, the battle against the pandemic is being waged not only by doctors in hospitals, but also by volunteers and activists through social media, online groups and community organizing, while political leaders are seen as incompetent and indifferent. .

Last week, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli lost a vote of confidence in parliament, but kept his post after rival political parties failed to form a new government. The political turmoil began in December, after Oli dissolved parliament and called for snap elections in an apparent effort to avoid a power-sharing deal. The move was deemed unconstitutional, prompting weeks of political maneuvering by rival parties just as Covid-19 cases were beginning to skyrocket.

The country’s fragile health system has been overwhelmed, with 44% of people examined in the first week of May he was found to be infected with the virus. According to Official figures, in the last week there has been an average 183 deaths and more than 8,600 new cases per day, compared to less than 200 cases per day in the first week of April. But experts say the true numbers are likely to be much higher.

“The situation has stretched. It’s really bad, ”says Anup Bastola, chief consultant at Sukraraj Infectious and Tropical Diseases Hospital in Kathmandu. “I get calls asking for fans many times a day… It’s a terrible time. I warned people that there would be a second wave, but I never thought it would happen like this. “

Elke Wisch, UNICEF country representative, says there is an urgent need for in-kind donations to combat the “alarming” increase in cases. “The care staff is overloaded to the limit, hospitals and health centers cannot cope, and there is not enough oxygen to support the increasing number of people in need of treatment,” she says.

And so Nepalese are turning to social media, and each other, for help.

“It is the government’s responsibility to deal with this, but if the government is not doing enough, we have to step up. It’s a crisis, ”says Luna Ranjit, a member of the Covid Alliance for Nepal, which is mobilizing a response on multiple fronts.

The alliance has focused its efforts on ensuring vaccines for the country, where just around 1% of the population has received two doses of vaccine. “The most urgent need is oxygen, but if we are going to prevent these surges from happening over and over again, we need vaccines,” says Ranjit.

With India halting the export of vaccines, the alliance has been lobbying the US embassy in Nepal and US lawmakers to redirect some of the country’s excess supply to Nepal.

But Ranjit accepts the limits of a citizen-led response. “It appears that civil society is bearing the greatest burden, but our efforts are not centralized and therefore there is a lot of duplication,” he says. “It is something fortuitous.”

People wait to refill oxygen cylinders in Kathmandu, May 13
People wait to refill oxygen cylinders in Kathmandu on May 13. Covid cases are increasing rapidly in Nepal, where there is an acute shortage of oxygen for patients. Photograph: Niranjan Shrestha / AP

This has not stopped the efforts of dozens of groups, inside and outside Nepal, often made up of urban youth who were educated in the response to the 2015 earthquake. They include teams that are Manufacture of ventilation equipment and PPE., provide food aid, establish helplines Y importing oxygen.

Make the Line, from a network run by volunteers Covid Connect Nepal, says his team has been working for two weeks without rest to find hospital beds, oxygen and ventilators for hundreds of concerned families. Once the requests are verified, the team begins calling hospitals and any contacts they have for help.

“We work almost 24 hours a day. Yesterday we were up until 3 in the morning until we found a hospital bed for someone, ”says Khadka, 20, who has a team of more than 150 young volunteers across the country. “If we save just one life, it’s worth it.”

The need is far greater than the resources available. On Saturday, Khadka’s group received 315 requests for help, but was only able to resolve 19 of them. However, he says, when their energy drops, they are encouraged by the thank you messages sent to them on social media.

Ping: “With your help we found a fan… Now his condition is much better. Thank you. My hat is off to you guys. “Ping:” Thank you for everything you are doing in this time of crisis. “Ping:” I’m so glad I have you to lean on in this situation. Much love. “

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