Nepal Facing ‘COVID-19 Catastrophe’ as Cases Hit New Record

May 06, 2021

Nepal recorded a daily record 9,070 COVID-19 cases on Thursday 6 May, as the second wave of the pandemic seen in India has now crossed the border to many parts of Nepal. Positivity rates in Nepal are now at over 40%, up drastically from just 2% in March, and hospitals are reporting severe shortages of beds and oxygen supplies.

Mercy Corps is working in isolation centres and with communities in Kailali and Kanchanpur, on the border with India, where some 400,000 migrant workers are returning home to Nepal and positive COVID-19 cases are rising at an alarming rate.

Christie Getman, Mercy Corps’ Country Director for Nepal, says:

“In March, as few as 70 people a day tested positive for COVID-19 in Nepal. Today, this number is more than 100 times higher - a daily record of 9,070 cases were recorded on Thursday - and is overwhelming Nepal’s fragile health structures.

The communities we are working with are petrified. They have seen their friends and family members in India fall ill, many tragically dying, and now are seeing the very same situation hit Nepal as some 400,000 migrant workers return home with no money in their pockets and the virus spreads rapidly.

This is already a crisis and worryingly things are expected to only get worse.

Nepal’s medical system is weaker than India’s, reliant on India for crucial supplies like oxygen cylinders, which India itself is short of now. Nepali hospitals are already running out of beds, and caseloads are expected to continue to rise. Less than 10% of people have received at least one vaccine dose, and Nepal is entirely dependent on other countries such as India to deliver vaccines.

Urgent international support is needed as quickly as possible. We call on donors to provide funding, emergency medical supplies and vaccine doses. If we act quickly, it is still possible to prevent a real COVID-19 catastrophe in Nepal, but there’s not much time left.”


Mercy Corps has worked in Nepal since 2005, supporting communities to adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis, improving access to food, and increasing opportunities for young people and women. Last year we reached nearly one million people in Nepal, including over 400,000 with emergency COVID-19 support.

In Kailali, Kanchanpur, and across the Karnali River Basin valley, Mercy Corps is providing urgent supplies to returning Nepalis, including masks, face shields, hospital gowns, clean drinking water and hand sanitizer, as well as cash voucher support.