Monsoon Season Likely to Accelerate Spread of Coronavirus in Nepal
New report by Mercy Corps and Practical Action shows gaps in preparation
KATHMANDU, Nepal — With the monsoon season arriving, a new report from global organizations Mercy Corps and Practical Action highlights the increased risks to flood prone communities in Nepal. In communities surveyed in western Nepal, over half of the flood evacuation sites don’t have handwashing facilities while 80% lack quarantine facilities. Because of the growing COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, Nepalese are also facing increased economic hardships and a food security crisis.
The report, Avoiding a perfect storm: COVID-19 and floods in Nepal, surveyed Community Disaster Management Committees (CDMCs) in 46 flood prone communities across 5 districts in Nepal through phone interviews about their plans to respond to floods and COVID-19. It warns that with expected flooding during monsoon season, COVID-19 will exacerbate the situation for many vulnerable communities in Nepal.
Disaster Management Committees report that:
- 60% of communities already report food shortages, with marginalized groups, such as the Dalit population, especially facing difficulties;
- Access to health care is limited; one in five communities surveyed are typically cut off from health services during floods and landslides in monsoon season;
- Only 17% of communities have quarantine facilities, and 22% of these facilities are at risk from flooding and landslides due to being in flood-prone areas and not having alternative sites;
- 43% of flood evacuation sites lack handwashing facilities, and 57% do not have hand soap in stock.
The report’s co-author, Yoko Okura, Regional Program and Advocacy Manager, Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, Mercy Corps says:
“COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, many of whom are already on the front lines of the climate crisis. The pandemic makes it infinitely harder for families to cope with the upcoming monsoon season, with communities already reporting challenges in meeting basic needs such as food and water. We know from previous flooding during monsoon season that conditions will only get worse.
"We are calling for international help in assisting local governments in Nepal to support the most vulnerable communities as they prepare for impending disasters.”
Laxmi Ghartimagar, Community Disaster Management Committee member in Nepal’s Kailai District says:
“The monsoon season is an extremely difficult time for our community and it will be very challenging to respond to floods and safely evacuate people as we cannot ensure distancing.”
Co-author Bikram Rana from Practical Action in Nepal says:
“The situation is highly concerning, but solutions do exist and we know they work.
“Donors and wealthy governments should increase funding to build and maintain handwashing facilities in evacuation sites and distribute hand soap ahead of the monsoon season. We also need immediate funding for the construction of additional quarantine and isolation facilities with adequate drinking water and sanitation facilities, as up to 600,000 Nepali migrants are expected to return from overseas in the coming months.
“Now more than ever, we must invest in building community resilience to climate chaos shocks like more intense storms that lead to floods, and we must do this alongside helping people fight the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Notes to editor:
Mercy Corps has worked in Nepal since 2005 conducting programs to help save lives in emergencies and build economic development for vulnerable communities, through a systems-based approach to market development, financial services, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and youth engagement.
Practical Action has worked in Nepal since 1979. They are an international development organisation that solves some of the toughest problems by putting ingenious ideas to work so people in poverty can change their world. It has projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America, an independent publishing company and a technical consulting service so answers that start small can grow big to shape a world that works better for everyone. In 2018/19 it helped 1.8 million people directly and a further 2.8 million people indirectly, provided technical and specialist expertise to 40 programmes in 26 countries and shared 160,000 knowledge and training resources across 94% of the world’s countries.
The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance finds practical ways to help save lives by strengthening community resilience to floods globally. Established in 2013, the nine-member alliance, with the exception of Zurich Insurance Group, is funded by the Zurich Foundation.