International community provides medical aid and vaccines to pandemic-hit Nepal

By Laxman Datt Pant

International community provides medical aid and vaccines to pandemic-hit Nepal

Joining hands with Nepal in its fight against the COVID-19 surge, France, Japan and One Heart Worldwide have provided COVID-19 medical equipment and China has delivered vaccines to the Government of Nepal (GoN).

The aid came in response to a request launched by the GoN including via the EU’s disaster-response Civil Protection Mechanism to support Nepal with vaccines, medicines, equipment and supplies in the face of the deadlier second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the country in May claiming the lives of thousands and affecting hundreds of thousands.

The 7-ton shipment that arrived from France on June 2 included 504,000 FFP2 masks, 20,225 test kits, 12,000 protection glasses and 14 respirators. For its part, Japan handed over 160 oxygen generators that reached Nepal on June 3 and will be distributed to 58 hospitals across the country. The Embassy of Japan in Nepal has also announced that Japan will provide six ambulances in October to mitigate the shortage of ambulances during the pandemic.

One Heart Worldwide, an international non-profit, has donated emergency care supplies worth US$1.7 million through its partnership with the international non-profit, Disaster Relief. The consignment included 350 oxygen concentrators as well as antibiotics, syringes, nebulizers, painkillers and other essential medical supplies.

Health Minister Hridayesh Tripathi welcomed the aid as “life-saving items” and “a big relief” for the Nepali people. “This is a hard battle that nobody can fight alone,” he added.

At the same time, China delivered 800,000 vaccine doses and syringes out of the promised 1 million. The other 200,000 doses of vaccine have already been provided to Nepal by the Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.

The GoN has decided to vaccinate people in the 60-64 age group with the second batch of the China donated Vero Cell vaccine with the vaccination program expected to start on June 8.

In the meantime, the World Health Organization has approved the Sinovac vaccine to be listed for emergency use which will be the second Chinese vaccine to receive WHO approval and is recommended for adults over 18.

With a population of 30 million people, Nepal has been fighting an escalating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic since May. As of 3 June, Nepal has recorded 576,936 confirmed coronavirus cases, a figure practically double that in January 2021. The daily peak was reached in mid-May when the number of those infected exceeded 9,000. The death toll has now risen to 7,555 up from about 2,700 in January. The highest daily death toll was recorded on 19 May when 249 people lost their lives.

Nepal has administered at least 2,827,243 doses of COVID-19 jabs but only 714,163 people have been vaccinated with both doses so far. In June, the pandemic has been observed to have become less virulent with the number of confirmed cases gradually decreasing.