By Vatican News staff reporter
The social action arm of the Catholic Church in Nepal has launched a joint effort with US-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to provide much-needed medical supplies to the country’s hospitals in the current Covid-19 crisis, UCA News reported.
Helping 20 hospitals
The Caritas Nepal scheme that will run from July to September aims to provide 20 hospitals in 14 districts of Nepal with medical supplies. They include oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, pulse oximeters, face masks and personal protective equipment including isolation gowns, face shields, shoe covers, safety goggles, surgical head caps, heavy duty gloves, surgical masks, surgical gloves and hand sanitizers.
On Thursday, Caritas Nepal delivered a consignment of medical items to Paropkar Maternity and Women’s Hospital in capital Kathmandu. Dr. Sunil Sharma Acharya, a physician of the hospital gratefully accepted the consignment saying the equipment will be utilized by the frontline workers in providing service to the mothers and babies who are fighting for their lives in the Covid ward of the hospital.
Devendra Pokharel, a regional manager of Caritas Nepal, said they believe the equipment will help hospitals that have struggled to serve patients when the second of wave of the pandemic triggered a high rate of infections and patients with severe respiratory problems suffered amid a shortage of oxygen. A similar consignment was handed over to Mechi Hospital in Jhapa district of eastern Nepal.
Health and humanitarian assistance
Since the pandemic last year, Caritas Nepal has carried out a range of assistance programmes for affected communities in 23 districts of the country with funding from partners and donors including the CRS.
Caritas Nepal has established 150 units of hand-washing stations established in rural and urban municipalities, distributed 10,000 units of Covid-19 safety kits (masks, sanitizer, thermal guns, etc.) to individuals, health workers, health posts, quarantine centers and humanitarian workers. It provided food relief to over 7,000 households and more than 24,000 smallholder farming households with agricultural input. In addition, it carried out a Covid-19 precautionary awareness campaign that reached out to 100,000 people.
Hindus make up for more than 81 percent of Nepal’s population, Buddhists account for 9 percent, Muslims 4.4 percent and Christians 1.4 percent, according to the 2011 census. Nepal has only about 8,000 Catholics but an estimated 3-5 million Protestant and evangelical Christians belong to about 12,000 churches, mostly based in the poor, rural heartland of Nepal.
Nepal’s Covid-19 situation
The Himalayan nation on Sunday reported 1,237 new coronavirus cases taking the overall infection tally to 655,449, The Kathmandu Post said citing the Ministry of Health and Population. The death toll so far has now reached 9,382. The number of active cases stands at 26,173. Local media say about half the infections and two-thirds of deaths have been registered since the second wave of the pandemic struck Nepal in April.
3% vaccination rate
The government has faced criticisms for negligence and unpreparedness amid a sluggish vaccination drive as the highly contagious Delta variant wreaked havoc in neighboring India. Nepal’s fragile healthcare system collapsed with hospitals struggling to get beds and oxygen for the overwhelming number of patients.
According to data provided by the ministry on Thursday, 2.61 million Nepalis have received their first doses of the vaccine and 933,868 both doses. This indicates that only about 3 percent of the country’s some 30 million population has been fully vaccinated so far.
Meanwhile, a little over 1.5 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine provided by the United States through the COVAX facility, an international vaccine sharing scheme, arrived in Nepal on Monday. This is the first consignment of the single-shot vaccine Nepal has received. Days earlier, 8 million doses of the Chinese Sinopharma vaccine arrived in the country.
Vaccinating as many citizens as possible has been seen as the best strategy that nations around the world are trying to implement to defeat the virus.
Meanwhile, the impoverished South Asian nation has been struggling with a political crisis. President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20 and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The president dissolved the House for a second time on May 22, announcing snap elections on November 12 and November 19. But on Monday, the Supreme Court intervened and reinstated the dissolved House, delivering a major blow to Oli who is currently heading a minority government after losing a trust vote in the House.