IFRC calls for urgent international support to prevent additional human catastrophe in South Asia

By Laxman Datt Pant

IFRC calls for urgent international support to prevent additional human catastrophe in South Asia

Responding to the latest COVID-19 surge that has resulted in horrific situations across South Asia, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has urged the international community to provide urgent support to prevent a worsening human catastrophe in the region.

“Urgent international support is needed as India’s total COVID-19 infections soar past 20 million, whereas in Nepal, many hospitals are full and overflowing with COVID-19 patients. Also, Southern towns near the Indian border are unable to cope with the growing number of people needing medical treatment,” the IFRC press statement issued on May 5 reads.

Nepal is today recording 57 times more cases than at the same time last month; the current situation in India is a terrifying preview of Nepal’s future if this latest COVID-19 surge is not contained, IFRC warned.

  • South Asian countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have recently experienced record death rates due to COVID-19
  • Hospitals and intensive care departments remain full or close to capacity in many areas across Bangladesh and Pakistan
  • In Nepal, 44% of tests returned positive results last weekend, indicating many thousands of infections are undiagnosed
  • There are grave fears of mass deaths if the virus continues to spread unchecked across Nepal

Stating that the virus has no respect for borders and that variants were running rampant across Asia, Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director for IFRC, said:

“We need to act now and we need to act fast to have any hope of containing this human catastrophe. We must do more to prevent this tragedy unfolding in India and across South Asia. All eyes are on India this week, but we must also consider what we may be facing in the coming weeks and how best to prepare for it.”

Nepal urgently needs support to save more lives and treat people who are suffering and we will not succeed in overcoming this terrible disease until vaccines are available to protect everyone, regardless of nationality or income, he added.

Observing that it is beyond distressing to witness that people cannot say goodbye to their loved ones as immediate cremations are taking place at record levels due to the new COVID-19 variants that are striking down people of all ages in Nepal, Dr. Netra Prasad Timsina, Chairperson of Nepal Red Cross Society said:

“What is happening in India right now is a horrifying preview of Nepal’s future if we cannot contain this latest COVID surge that is claiming more lives by the minute.”

According to Timsina, every effort is currently being made to save lives across Nepal with increased medical treatment while Nepal Red Cross volunteer health teams are also reducing the record infection rate by helping with testing, vaccinations, hand washing, mask-wearing, and isolating infected people.

Although every South Asian country has started to vaccinate those people who are most at risk, in Nepal only 1% of the population has received two doses of the vaccine, while in India, 2% are fully vaccinated.